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Lyttelton port workers to strike

Lyttelton Port workers are now on strike

Around half of the workers at Lyttelton Port went on strike at midnight last night, after yesterday’s negotiations over pay and safety failed.

Representatives from the Rail and Maritime Transport Union and the Lyttelton Port Company (LPC) met on Monday morning to try avert strike action by 200 union workers at the port.

Union organiser John Kerr said the port company rejected options they presented to achieve a settlement.

The port company refused to pay about 70 members for some scheduled shifts last week, after strike action was delayed as a gesture of goodwill and good faith, Mr Kerr said.

He said refusing to pay workers who had called off strike action was senseless.

“We’ve said any deal has got to include those member’s pay being restored to them and LPC have flatly refused to do that.”

Kerr said the union put forward two options as a framework for settlement early on Monday.

LPC Operations Manager Paul Monk says the Company has offered RMTU members a 3 per cent salary increase each year for three years while asking for no changes in their conditions of work.

“We are no longer asking them to make the roster changes, agreed to a year ago by their Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) colleagues at the Port, which would allow us to offer customers more flexible servicing of their vessels. The reason MUNZ members received a salary increase of 4 per cent this year and 3 per cent for the next two years was because they embraced and are working the flexible roster RMTU is refusing to accept.

“We have previously offered RMTU members in the Terminal parity with these conditions and wages. However, RMTU want the same salary increases as their MUNZ colleagues while refusing to make the same roster changes.”

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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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Industrial workers to stage strikes

IG Metall, a powerful German union, has called for all day walkouts by industrial workers across the country next week, hampering the production of cars, car parts and machinery.

The strikes come after union leaders and employers in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, home to companies such as Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler and sports car firm Porsche, failed to reach agreement in 16 hours of talks overnight.

Encouraged by the fastest economic growth in six years and record low unemployment, IG Metall is demanding an 8 per cent pay rise for 3.9 million metals and engineering workers across Germany for 27 months.

It has also asked for workers to be given the right to reduce their weekly hours to 28 from 35 to care for children, elderly or sick relatives, and return to full time after two years.

Employers have offered a 6.8 percent increase but have rejected the demand for shorter hours unless they can also increase workers’ hours when necessary.

“We have to step up the pressure on employers in the coming days so that they show some willingness to compromise,” IG Metall chief Joerg Hofmann told journalists in a news conference on Saturday.

IG Metall said it saw no point in further talks during the planned walkouts, but said it was in principle willing to resume negotiations if employers showed a willingness to make concessions.

If not, the union’s leadership will prepare to ballot workers for extended 24 hour strikes that could hit Germany’s industrial output.

 “Twenty-four hour strikes would indeed be painful,” a spokesman for BMW said ahead of the latest round of talks, adding extended walkouts could disrupt production not only at the carmaker but also at suppliers.

Three hours of stoppages at BMW’s Munich factory on Wednesday resulted in 250 cars not being assembled, it said.

Premium rival Audi, owned by Volkswagen, also said it was trying to catch up after around 700 vehicles were not assembled as a result of two stoppages at its Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm factories this week.

This is IG Metall’s first major push for shorter hours since workers staged seven weeks of strikes in 1984 to help push through a cut of the working week to 35 hours from 40 hours.


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