Union News – Feb 2017

Lyttleton Port Strike

On 28 January this website posted a report on the Lyttleton port dispute. This is a brief update.

The port company’s legal challenge to the Maritime Union’s strike notice for the Waitangi Day long weekend failed clearing the way for the 3–day strike. The Maritime Union has given notice of a strike from 17-19 February, in addition to the notice for 11-12 February previously reported.

Junior Doctors – New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association

Junior doctors staged a national 73 hour strike from 17 to 20 January. This follows a 48 hour strike in October. The issue: fatigue. The doctors are seeking more reasonable hours of work in their negotiations over a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement with the District Health Boards. Currently they can be made to work for seven nights in a row and up to 12 day shifts in a row. The union has been campaigning for a maximum of four nights and 10 day shifts in a row.

In an interview with RNZ, the NZRDA’s general secretary, Deborah Powell, explained that a compromise agreement had been worked out in negotiations, but the employer side had not been able to make a formal offer without consulting the DHBs’ chief executives. At the time of writing, the union was still waiting to find out whether the employers were willing to sanction the draft agreement.

Ambulance Workers – First Union

Funding cuts, leading to St John Ambulance heaping more pressure on ambulance workers and restricting pay, has sparked national limited industrial action by crews from the beginning of last November. The action taken has been to not abide by St John’s uniform policy and to wear tops saying ‘Healthy Ambos Save Lives’. In addition, from December crews have not been attending public events over the summer where normally a paramedic presence is required.

Under the Employment Relations Act this minor form of action is classed as a partial strike, and as such employers have the power to deduct 10 per cent of pay. St John, not content with threatening disciplinary action, have opted to make the deduction even though the crews are working their shifts normally. St John’s are to be condemned for deducting pay. It sets an example that could affect other workers taking minimal action.

In negotiations on 1 February an improved offer from St John was broached and the union proceeded to survey its members. At the time of writing it was unknown whether an agreement would be reached on the offer.

BNT – First Union

Amid a rash of strikes in December in Auckland were low paid distribution workers at the Auckland-based car parts company Brake and Transmission (BNT). They staged their second strike on 26 January. In five months since bargaining was initiated BNT have failed to make an offer. Workers at the company have not had a pay rise for years. First Union organiser Emir Hodzic is reported as saying “The issue here is that they are the lowest paid workers in the industry, so are just floating above minimum wage. They’re not asking for $20 an hour, just a fair share and an increase that will just help them through the cost of living in Auckland.”

Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa

The PWUA is fighting a clear case of unfair dismissal of a DX Mail postie. The postie is popular with his workmates because he has a reputation for standing up to management bullying. Other posties have signed witness statement that contradict the basis on which the sacking took place. The PWUA continues to build its membership in the private company.

Diesel Trains – Rail and Maritime Transport Union

The RMTU is campaign against KiwiRail’s plans to replace electric locomotives with “dirty diesel” ones.

The union says that Transport Minister Simon Bridges is hypocritical for espousing the benefits of electric cars while allowing KiwiRail to ditch electric locomotives. RMTU modelling shows that KiwiRail’s electric fleet saves 8 million litres in fuel each year and the price of upkeep is only $1.13 per km, but the diesel locomotives will guzzle the gas the electric fleet saves and the likely cost of upkeep will be $2.27 per km. The Green Party has launched a petition to Parliament to demand that KiwiRail’s decision is reviewed.