Industrial Armageddon Looms
Glad I'm not the only one perplexed at Mayor Len Brown's "we're going on a journey" comment I heard on RNZ this morning. Sounded like he was backing the Ports of Auckland to the hilt and, well... fuck the workers. Simon Mercep - the host - repeated the point because he couldn't quite believe the answer either, and Len Brown reiterated it, going on in sterile corporate-speak about driving efficiencies.
In a bull-headed charge to screw out that extra, marginal, slice of efficiency in an already efficient operation - through primarily a lowering of labour costs - the Ports company management has merely managed to destroy what was up until now a very good labour relations environment that kept the port ticking over.
Many of us remember the bad olde days of yore when strikes and stoppages were so routine they could pretty much be scheduled years in advance, but that had changed and the last decade at least was free of any major disruption that I can recall. The management have risked all that good will for what will likely be a very small return or a negative one - especially given the net costs of redundancies and the strike action to date (let alone all the flow on effects to their business and others affected).
In these circumstances it would seem an absolute loss for the Lefty Mayor to come out - as he has - in favour of the ports management and against the workers. And yet that is what he is doing. Not just fence-sitting and observing the official position of the arms-length shareholder under the legislation etc., but going in to bat against the workers, their union, and in support of the ports management. He told RNZ that the unions should have taken the original offer and this wouldn't have happened! If that isn't taking sides... It is quite an astounding turn of events.
It looks like Mayor Brown has just done his dough with Auckland's Left. And as the sides dig in Mayor Brown will be more and more exposed and his natural political allies will be forced to abandon him if he continues to walk in line with the bosses. I note others have expressed the same concern: the activist base that got Len Brown elected are utterly livid and vowing "it's over".
The spill-over is already seeping out into other spheres - and not just restricted to sympathy action by other ports' workers. The large scale public service cuts the Tories are insisting on and other large disputes such as the AAFCO lockout are gathering a head of steam, projecting out to waves of industrial action and a Winter of Discontent.
Mayor Brown and the Labour Party should reflect on Auckland's history here: the 151 days of lockout in 1951 started with the waterfront but took in many other unions, including the City Council staff.