Port workers' whanau add economic value

Monday 19 March 2012, 8:17AM

By Pita Sharples



Maori Party Co-leader and MP for Tamaki Makaurau, Dr Pita Sharples, called for the Maritime Union and the Ports of Auckland to return to good-faith bargaining, with a plea to recognise the value of the workers’ whanau.

“I have met both parties to this dispute over the past week. I can understand the Ports’ argument for greater productivity and greater efficiencies generating a higher dividend to the Auckland council and the regional economy,” said Dr Sharples.

“What is also clear to me is that the burden of changes to the employment regime will fall most heavily on the whanau of the workers,” he said.

“The contracting out regime provides the individual worker with a minimum number of hours of work each four weeks, but no guarantee of advance notice of when that work will be required. This makes it hard for families to plan to do anything together.

“In particular, the new regime offers no guarantee that weekends will be free, to take children to sport, or hui, or just to be with their parents.

“Taking children to weekend sporting, recreational or cultural pursuits is part of the responsibility that each generation takes for our society and economy. Without being able to plan weekend time together, families will no longer be able to fulfil their social and community responsibilities.

“Their families have directly contributed to the economy by supporting these workers to become skilled and experienced during their careers working for the port. They have also helped to raise the next generation of workers to have stable work habits and loyalty to their employers. Families need some security and stability of work to be able to function properly.

“In the longer term, employers also need a stable workforce to maintain the specialised skill base that the economy needs to operate efficiently.

“Part of the problem here is the economic model that we have in New Zealand, which encourages the union to look after its members, and the Ports of Auckland to look after its shareholders, and no-one is looking at the bigger picture of the regional and national good.

“A Genuine Progress Index takes social, cultural and environmental costs and benefits into account in economic decision-making. I urge the parties in this dispute to come together with a focus on the wider picture, and try to reach a different outcome through good faith negotiation,” said Dr Sharples.