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Thousands rally for sacked Ports workers

Published: 1:07PM Saturday March 10, 2012 Source: ONE News

Thousands of people have rallied in Auckland City in support of almost 300 Ports of Auckland workers who have all but lost their jobs.

The port announced on Wednesday that it would make nearly 300 Maritime Union of New Zealand union members redundant, and replace them with contractors.

Industrial action across the country has swelled in the past month, and today many of those involved in came out in support of the watersiders.

The rally kicked off this afternoon at 4pm at Britomart, followed by a march, and then speeches in a nearby park.

ONE News reporter Stephen Smith said around 5000 protesters, including firefighters, meat workers, rest home nurses, even politicians, took to street, yelling slogans such as "workers rights are under attack!" as well as "stand up fight back, workers rights are under attack."

"It's (the protest) wide-spread and strong these people are angry and they have every right to be, and we're angry for them, " Labour MP David Cunliffe told ONE News.

The huge swell of support is a morale boost for the 290 port workers who were told on Wednesday their jobs were gone.

The Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Helen Kelly said despite the port announcing that it has commenced redundancy proceedings; the issue is not over for the workers affected.

"New Zealanders are increasingly concerned about the impact of casualisation on their families."

"We need jobs that are secure and safe, and that's what the Ports of Auckland dispute is about - a group of workers who want the ability to be able to say when they'll be free to spend time with their family, without the worry of being called in to work."
 
Maritime Union of Australia workers are among the international contingent in Auckland for today's rally.

"We're obviously to support the workers, the workers that have been sacked from the Port of Auckland - it's a disgrace," said Stuart Traill from the Electrical Trade Union Australia.

Their colleagues back in Sydney are also making a stand by refusing to unload the Maersk Brani, which docked in Sydney this morning, because it was loaded in Auckland on Wednesday by non-union workers.

"It's got nothing to do with productivity, it's about busting unions. Unions are vital in the workplace and this about respect and dignity, and about maintaining the Port of Auckland in public hands," Traill said.

Earlier in the week, port workers in Wellington, Tauranga and Lyttelton also refused to unload vessels loaded by non-union workers.

As well as the Australians and Europeans, there's also big support from United States unionists, with the union reps from there say the fallout from these redundancies could spread north.

"We're here to support the working class and the port workers here with the Maritime Union of New Zealand," Ray Familathe from International Longshore & Warehouse Union told ONE News.

Kelly said that the rally is a chance for the public of Auckland to let the Auckland Council know they expect better from its Council companies, to treat workers fairly.

"And the public of Auckland, who own this port are coming out today to tell the mayor and the council to lift their game, the Ports of Auckland to stop the nonsense, to stop destroying the port and stop destroying people's lives," said Gary Parsloe from Maritime Union NZ.

But the Port said today it is time to move on, and its decision to make redundancies has been made. The workers should now start thinking about the future.

The Maritime Union now counting on the Employment Court to grant an injunction and at least delay the outsourcing of their jobs.

Strike action spreads to Sydney

Earlier today, union members at the Ports of Sydney refused to unload a ship which was worked on by non-union staff in Auckland.

The Maritime Union of Australia confirmed to ONE News that union members are refusing to unload the Maersk Brani, which docked at Sydney DP World Wharf at Botany Bay at 5am.

The Maersk was handled by non-union staff at Ports of Auckland, before going to Sydney. It left Auckland on Wednesday evening.

There is also a 'community picket' outside Ports of Sydney, with between 30-40 workers protesting.

Union members at Wellington and Lyttelton ports had also refused to work on 'blacklisted' ships, which had been loaded by non-union workers at Auckland while Maritime union members were on strike.

In both cases, judges ruled the action illegal, and ordered workers to unload the vessels.

Maersk has been accused of deliberately turning off ships' navigation devices to prevent workers from knowing that ships had visited the strike-ravaged Auckland port.

The Maritime Union has revealed, what it claims, is correspondence between a ship spotter at Ports of Auckland and Maritime NZ, which it says confirms its concerns.

It says two ships, the Maersk Aberdeen and the Irenes Remedy, turned off their Automatic Identification System (AIS) shortly before reaching New Zealand.

Maersk has said the union's claims were "completely without foundation".

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