Action against union-busting effort on NZ docks spreads to Sydney

A major union dispute has erupted in New Zealand at the Port of Auckland, with 300 union workers sacked and replaced with scabs. Now the dispute has spread, with Sydney wharfies voting on Saturday March 10 to respect a community picket line and not to load or unload a ship worked by scab labour in Auckland.

On the same day, 7000 people marched in Auckland in support of the 300 sacked Port of Auckland workers. The management of the Port of Auckland has demanded massive concessions from workers. It has demanded that all jobs at the port be casualised so that workers have no minimum hours and no idea at what time or on what day they might get called in.

In response Port of Auckland workers launched a “Save our Port” campaign and voted to strike. For the past two weeks workers have been on the picket line. On Thursday March 8 they heard through the media that they had all been sacked. This is New Zealand’s version of the 1998 Patricks dispute, when Chris Corrigan tried to smash the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

Approximately 30 ships have been scheduled to call at the Port of Auckland while the workers have been on strike. All but three diverted their voyages to nearby ports. However, the massive and very profitable shipping company Maersk sent two large container ships into Auckland to be worked by scabs.

One of the ships, the Maersk Brani, arrived in Sydney at 6.30am on Saturday March 10, direct from Auckland. Cranes at the DP World container terminal were silent all day and into the night as workers stayed outside the gate while Unions NSW, teachers, firefighters and students organised a community picket to protest the actions of the Port of Auckland and Maersk. The second ship, the Maersk Aberdeen, is due to arrive at Sydney’s Patricks terminal at 8pm Monday 12 March. It has already been met with pickets and protests in Wellington and Tauranga.

Workers’ rights are under attack all over the world. The brave stand taken by Sydney’s wharfies and community picketers must be supported by the whole trade union movement.

It is likely that the employers will try to attack the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) with the full force of Australia’s industrial relations laws that still make it a crime for workers and community members to support each other in struggle. The union could face fines of millions of dollars. Three hundred families in Auckland face being left without an income—and New Zealand wharfies face losing their union. This is a battle we have to win.

By James Supple

What you can do:
– Join the Sydney community picket line at DP World, Friendship Road, Port Botany, 24 hours a day, but especially at 6am, 2pm, and 10pm when shifts change.
– Pass a resolution in your workplace.
– Take a collection.
– Be alert for another Sydney community picket to begin on Monday 12 March

Send messages of solidarity to: [email protected]


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