Last chance meeting ahead of strikes

RMTU South Island organiser John Kerr discusses the ongoing dispute with Lyttelton Port Company ahead of planned strikes at the port.

Today’s mediation will be the 24th meeting between the Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) and Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) in a prolonged and bitter dispute over pay and safety concerns. 

Following mediation on Wednesday, RMTU withdrew its strike notices from Friday 9 March to Monday 12 March inclusive, however strike notices remain in place for the period 13-21 March.

“We, as a gesture of good will and good faith, have listened to the business community and withdrew our strike notice for Wednesday and strike notices which were to go out until next Monday, in the hope that would encourage the port company to come into negotiations in a pragmatic train of mind,” said John Kerr, RMTU organiser, to Autofile.

RMTU members, with the knowledge that a shipping company couldn’t divert a shipping plan due to cemented shipping cycles, were ready and willing to work last weekend.

However, LPC refused to pay some of the RMTU workers for their scheduled shifts planned for last weekend, saying it has diverted ships away from Lyttelton because of the strike threat, and now there isn’t any work for them to do.

“Refusing to pay workers who have called off strike action makes no sense, it simply inflames the situation,” Kerr said.

“What has happened just now is that we have discovered they can reschedule the shipping,” said Kerr.

 “They have illegally locked us out by not paying our members, and they seem to be incompetent around rescheduling shipping despite knowing that we had withdrawn strike notices.”

“Our union is a negotiating union, we are desperately trying to reach a deal with the port company, but LPC management seem to be vindictive and spiteful towards our members.”

“We have heard loud and clear what the business community are saying, we understand the impact the dispute is having, we want to reach a deal, we are very close, the difference between what we are asking and what LPC are offering amounts to a quarter of the CEO’s salary [950,000 a year].”

“There are now strike notices in place for the period of the 13th until the 23rd of March and unless we reach an agreement on Monday, it is highly unlikely we will be withdrawing those strike notices.”

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