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.