THE Rail and Maritime Union of New Zealand (RMTU) has called off a strike scheduled to start yesterday (8 March) and last through 12 March at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch.
The move comes as the Union and the Port remain locked in protracted negotiations on a collective agreement.
RMTU South Island organiser John Kerr told DCN the notice for Thursday 8 March was withdrawn on Tuesday as a gesture of good will and good faith as mediation was scheduled for the following day. The notices for 9-12 March were withdrawn after LPC agreed on Wednesday to go into mediation on Monday 12 March. He said further notices would be withdrawn on Monday if the two parties reach an agreement.
Mr Kerr said the challenge was LPC failed to accept the Union’s withdraw of notices in the spirit they were made by “locking [workers] out and refusing to pay them”.
However, LPC operations manager Paul Monk said there was no work for the workers to do and it was the RMTU that was not acting in good faith.
“International shipping movements are planned at least a week in advance. RMTU knows that,” he said.
“They know they withdrew their strike notices (for 8-12 March) too late for shipping to return to the Port during that period. They are fully aware there is little work for their members to do when there are no ships here.
“Our wharves are empty today but the RMTU still wants its members paid. The RMTU is not acting in good faith.”
Mr Monk said, “There is no lockout of the Union members by LPC and nothing of this sort has been advised from LPC to the Union or its members”.
The Union has said a sticking point in negotiations was changes to work hours that would allow for extended shifts – something the RMTU said could cause dangerous fatigue issues.
However, in the offer the Union turned down on Wednesday, Mr Monk said LPC had offered RMTU members a 3% salary increase with no change to their work roster.
Mr Kerr said Mr Monk was right the issue was no longer one of safety, but the fact that Maritime Union of New Zealand members had negotiated a better agreement.
“[MUNZ’s] collective agreement [concluded] just over a year ago provided for a 4% wage increase and then two further annual increases of 3% over a three year term,” Mr Kerr said.
“Our members will not accept lesser pay than MUNZ members for doing the same work. LPC will argue the differential is because MUNZ accepted changes to hours of work clauses in their agreement but the practical reality is that management have only attempted to use those changes on two occasions in the last 12 months and have admitted that the changes may be unsafe in that they increase the risk of fatigue on the waterfront.”