Rural round-up

16/01/2021

Shearer toughs it out to set world record – Sandy Eggleston:

It was tough at the end” but Gore shearer Megan Whitehead battled the afternoon blues to set a world shearing record.

She bettered Emily Welch’s 13-year solo women’s nine-hour record of 648 lambs after shearing 661 near Gore yesterday.

Whitehead (24) said the last session was the hardest.

“[The lambs] were quite kicky and I was struggling mentally, trying to stay positive and get over it. . .

Waiting for a ray of sunshine – Annette Scott:

Summer is a long time coming for Canterbury arable farmers waiting to get their crops off the paddocks.

While little bits of harvest have been done here and there, there are a few farmers getting itchy feet as they wait for the sun to shine, arable industry grains vice-chair Brian Leadley says.

“It’s a case of grey overcast days, the ground is full of moisture from the rain over Christmas and New Year, and that’s holding humidity levels up,” he said. . .

Generations bring home the bacon – Kayla Hodge:

It is a meaty piece of family history.

Oamaru’s Campbells Butchery has always been in a safe pair of hands, with six generations of the Campbell family involved in the business over the past 109 years.

The business was started in 1912 by Robert Campbell and was taken over by Robert’s sons Laurie and Bruce, before Laurie’s son Roy took over in 1975.

Roy’s wife Heather also joined the business, and his son Tony started working there in 1980 before taking over in the 1990s. . . 

No end in sight for shipping disruptions – Neal Wallace:

Exporters scrambling to find containers and shipping space are being warned the issue is unlikely to be resolved for this year’s peak export season.

Shipping rates to New Zealand have increased fourfold since April, access to shipping containers is being hampered by port congestion caused by resurgent global demand some vessels are not backloading empty containers.

The problem has been accentuated by industrial action at Australian ports and capacity issues and a skilled worker shortage at the Port of Auckland. . .

Blueberry season delayed but going well – Luisa Girao:

A Southland blueberry orchard manager is grateful the operation has not been hit as hard as those of Central Otago’s fruitgrowers despite a late start to the season.

Blueberry Country general manager Simon Bardon said the Otautau orchard would usually start its season around new year but the wet ground meant a delay of about two weeks.

However, the hiccup did not dampen his enthusiasm for growing blueberries.

Mr Bardon said he was really excited about this season and hoped the orchard reached its target. . .

No bull: Hereford stud relies only on AI – Brian Eishold:

Relying purely on artificial insemination allows Bill Kee to focus his attention more closely on breeding objectives in his Hereford stud herd in Victoria’s east.

The former lawyer turned stud principal and dairy farmer’s son knows a thing or two about cattle but says his out-of-the-box thinking was perhaps due to his experience in law and his belief that change is not necessarily all that bad.

Mr Kee along with his wife, Minnie, run Warringa Herefords at Sarsfield. . .


Ports close hole govt left open

29/10/2020

Ports of Auckland has closed a hole in the country’s Covid-19 defense that the government left open:

New Zealand’s biggest port has sharply criticised the Government’s lack of COVID-19 rules for international shipping crew, and together with Tauranga Port has introduced its own rules. 

Ports of Auckland told customers in an advisory, obtained by Newshub, that recent positive cases represent “significant failings”.

Foreign ships manned by foreign crew are critical to trade, but swapping crews on these vessels represent an obvious risk. 

Current rules mean foreign crew can fly into Auckland and travel to a port to board a ship without mandatory testing or any isolation. 

“We see crew transfer as a weak point, so we’ve acted immediately to close that,” Matt Ball, General Manager of Public Relations and Communications at Ports of Auckland.

“What we’ve done is introduced a rule that crew can only transfer if they’ve undergone 14 days of managed isolation beforehand.”

The requirement, which includes double tests while in isolation, was implemented after the Auckland marine engineer tested positive after working on the Sofrana Surville. Also on deck that day were eight Filipino seafarers, who’d just flown in and boarded the ship without a test or isolation. . .

In an advisory, the Ports of Auckland told its customers: “We had thought that the New Zealand authorities had a robust process in place for international crew exchanges, but this case has identified some significant failings.” 

In the advisory, it states that the New Zealand authorities need to tighten up the crew change process and that this point has been made very clear at the highest levels. . . 

The company saw a hole and plugged it, why didn’t the government do it months ago and why isn’t it requiring all other port companies to follow Auckland’s example?

The failure to test high risk workers, including port, airport and quarantine workers was first highlighted by Newshub on August 13 – almost two months after a testing strategy was announced.

On August 17, when questioned about the lack of testing of quarantine workers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said officials didn’t know testing rates were not up to scratch.  

“No one of course said to us at any point, that I recall, that what we asked for was not happening,” Ardern said. 

However, newly released documents show Cabinet did know.

An August 7 briefing told Ministers weekly testing of quarantine workers hadn’t started and only 12 of 2,100 port workers had been tested.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister says issues with testing of border staff have now been rectified.

Can we rely on that reassurance? Is every other port taking Auckland’s strict approach?

We’ve managed to stamp out community transmission of Covid-19 at significant financial and social cost.

The only vulnerability is with incoming passengers and workers on planes and ships. The only way to keep the disease from spreading in the community is to ensure it can’t get past the border.

That requires plugging every hole and ensuring they stay plugged not just for New Zealand’s sake but for that of the crew on ships and for the people in the next port the ships will visit.

 

 

 


For want of a shipment . . .

09/03/2012

He was shopping for jandals in January.

The shop assistant said if he bought a pair of this brand he’d get a second pair free.

He asked why.

The shop assistant replied they’d been on a ship which ought to have been unloaded a couple of months earlier but didn’t because of the Ports of Auckland strikes.

For want of that shipment the store’s opportunity to sell jandals in late spring and early summer was lost. When the shipment finally arrived the jandal-buying season was waning so the store was forced to offer a two for the price of one deal to get rid of them.

This is just one business of many that last opportunities, and money, because of the strikes.


Having a stake makes a difference

08/03/2012

TV3 reckons Port of Tauranga gets it right:

Throughout the Auckland dispute, the Port Of Tauranga has been held up as an  example of how Auckland could operate – profits are at a record high, and the  port seems to have a contented workforce which gets the job done quickly and  efficiently.

One of the major differences between the two port companies is ownership.

David Hone has worked at the port for 18 years and, like 90 percent of  employees, is a shareholder in the company.

He says “working in a place that you’re part owner [of]” means he’s more  invested in the success of the business.

It’s one of the key reasons the port is so successful, according to chief  executive Mark Cairns.

“If you have a stake in a company your behaviour changes when you’re an  employee,” he says.

Because Ports of Auckland is owned by the city’s ratepayers it can’t be  floated.

This is a successful company in which most of the workers have a stake – and one in which the percentage of local ownership has increased since it was floated.

During question Time on Tuesday Prime Minister John Key said:

 Interestingly enough, Port of Tauranga, back in April 2008, had 66.5 percent of its shares owned by New Zealanders; today it is 70 percent.

Floating the company has been good for it, its shareholders, most of whom are New Zealanders and among whom are almost all its staff, and it’s also been good for those who use the port.

There should be similar benefits for businesses and shareholders from the partial sale of energy companies proposed under the government’s Mixed Ownership Model.


What will Labour’s union mates think of this?

18/01/2012

David Shearer says it’s not his place to interfere in the dispute between Ports of Auckland and the Maritime Union.

“If I thought my comments would make a difference to the resolution I  would, but I think that’s something that’ll happen between the two parties, not  with my involvement.”

Who can blame him for not wanting to side with a union which Cactus Kate shows is clearly sexist and racist and is also out of mantrol?

It’s not like an opposition leader to decline an opportunity for publicity but when the union is on a path to nowhere he wouldn’t want to join them.

But what will Labour’s union mates who have so much power in , and provide so much money to, the party think?


Why no peep from Labour?

12/01/2012

If the dispute between Ports of Auckland and MUNZ had happened last century the government would almost certainly have got involved.

That it is maintianing a hands-off approach is a sign of improved industrial relations legislation which leaves negotiations on pay and conditions to the parties involved.

Opposition parties don’t have to keep their distance in the same way and given they’re usually desperate for a headline you’d think someone from Labour might have something to say on the matter.

So far, if there’s been a peep from any of its MPs it hasn’t been a well-publicised one.

Why?

Does none of them have a view?

Or is this another sign of the problem the party faces when unions not only donate significant amounts of money to it but also have more influence over policy and candidate selection than individual members?


Unions for unions or workers?

11/01/2012

Unions are supposed to be to advocate for and support workers.

As the series of strikes by the MUNZ in its dispute with Ports of Auckland continues at considerable cost to the company, its customers and the workers, it looks like this union is working in its own interests rather than those of its members.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross  reckons MUNZ is biting the hand that feeds it:

Aucklanders can rightly be concerned at the increasingly rogue nature of the Maritime Union. However there are 500 men and women that work at the Port with even more skin in the game and a lot more to lose. The trade union movement evolved through a desire for workers to band together to protect their common interests. This is not a dishonourable goal. But when a union loses sight of its members long term interests and cavalier negotiating tactics start to backfire, the union itself begins putting its own member’s livelihoods at risk.

Unions still occupy a privileged position in New Zealand’s employment law; a relic of the last Labour administration which has not seen significant overhaul for some years. Few non-government organisations can boast clauses in legislation specifically designed for their benefit. Despite only 18 percent of the nation’s workforce being unionised, trade unions can look to whole sections of the Employment Relations Act written exclusively to aid union survival through legislative advantage.

Up until recently, cool heads and rational people sitting around negotiating tables have meant that little focus has been placed on the role that unions play in society. However, with the bare-faced mockery that the Maritime Union is making of civilised negotiations New Zealanders will soon begin to question what position unions should hold in the modern Kiwi workplace.

Macdoctor reckons the dispute isn’t about money, it’s about control:

Is PoAL controlled by the shareholders and the board, or is it controlled by the union? That is what the fight is about. The lives of the stevedores involved are a secondary consideration, as are the customers and the business of the port. Even less of a consideration are the ratepayers who will wind up all paying higher rates should PoAL be permanently damaged by this squabble.

Whaleoil and Keeping Stock both have posts quote POAL communications manager Catherine Etheredge who says:

I can confirm that the average remuneration for a full time stevedore, in the year ended June 30, 2011, was $91,480. The average remuneration for a part time stevedore (guaranteed at least 24 hours work a week) was $65,518.

53% of full time stevedores (123 individuals) earned over $80,000. 28% (43 individuals) earned over $100,000 with the highest earner making $122,000.

The averages were calculated by POAL’s payroll team based on actual payments, including for leave days, medical insurance and superannuation contributions. (For employees covered by the collective agreement, POAL matches their superannuation contributions up to a maximum of 7%.) We excluded those who had worked for less than the full 12 months e.g. had left part way through the year.

Employees are also entitled to 15 days sick leave per annum, accruing up to 45 days. All shift workers are entitled to five weeks annual leave. Training for all stevedoring tasks (crane driving, straddle driving and lashing) is undertaken in house and is paid for by the company.

One question that has been asked is how many hours you have to work to earn that $91,000. Stevedores who earned the average $91,000 in the 2010/11 financial year were paid for an average of 43 hours per week, excluding leave days. If you factor leave days in, that increases to 49 hours per week.

This leads to the key issue for the company – the high amount of paid downtime – an average of 35% of total hours paid. An employee getting paid for a 43 hour week is only working around 28 hours; for a 40 hour week, 26 hours. In a busy week, employees get paid for 66.5 hours but can only work for a maximum of 44.5.

On Monday 9 January, to give a recent example, we paid 26 staff a total of $5,484,80 for downtime, because they were entitled to be paid until the end of their set eight hour shift even though the ship had finished & they had gone home. In another example employees worked two hours of an overtime shift but were paid for the full eight hours.

This is not a cost-efficient nor sustainable labour model, especially when the company is not covering its cost of capital, cannot therefore justify further investment in order to grow, and its closest competitor has a labour utilisation rate in excess of 80%. (At Port of Tauranga stevedores start and finish work when a ship arrives and departs).

The company has offered an upfront 10% increase to hourly rates along with the retention of existing terms and conditions in return for more flexible rosters which would significantly reduce the amount of paid downtime. Employees would have the opportunity to plan their roster a month in advance. This proposal would result in a people being remunerated for fewer overall hours at a higher rate than they would currently get for the same paid hours. To be fair, until such time as container volumes recover/improve, the 10% increase to hourly rates would not (as some commentators have suggested) push average remuneration over $100K.

Catherine Etheredge
Ports of Auckland

It’s very difficult to understand the union’s position in the face of these numbers.

Wharfies can’t win this one

05/01/2012

Wharfies used to be renowned for industrial action designed to cause maximum disruption to their employers and the public whether or not it accomplished anything.

The on-going strikes on the Auckland waterfront shows some are still stuck back in those bad-old days but it is a battle they can’t win.

The workers appear to be very well-paid for what isn’t generally highly skilled work:

The  average annual wage of an Auckland wharfie is about  $91,480 – reportedly for a 26-hour week, employees and their  families get free medical insurance, and three weeks sick  leave entitlement is written into contracts. They also get  five weeks annual leave.

And the POA offer is not ungenerous:

They include a 10 per cent increase in the hourly rate, performance bonuses of up to 20 per cent, retention of existing benefits and provisions, and “full operational flexibility for Ports of Auckland”. No doubt the last is causing unionists most angst. It would allow port management, not them, to manage the business.

Added costs on the waterfront mean higher costs for exports and imports. The country couldn’t afford that in good times and it certainly can’t afford it when so much of the world is mired in recession.

Other ports have workers who have moved into the 21st century ready and are willing to pick up any business lost from Auckland.

Last month the port lost Maresk’s business to Tauranga and yesterday Fonterra announced it would shift its $27m weekly trade  to Tauranga and Napier.

Auckland’s loss is Tauranaga’s gain. Port of Tauranga stocks rose 1.5 percent to $10.10, its highest ever close after news that Fonterra was moving its business from Auckland.


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