Monday, March 12, 2012

Shearer gets off the fence

On Saturday, thousands of people turned out to show their support for striking Ports of Auckland workers, sending a powerful signal to both port management and the council. Among them was Labour leader David Shearer, who finally seems to have got off the fence and announced his backing for the union:

Labour leader David Shearer, joined by caucus members David Cunliffe, Andrew Little, Parekura Horomia, Charles Chauvel and Moana Mackey, marched as did Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and the Green Party's Denise Roche.

Shearer said it was still possible for the workers to find resolution with the port. He said the parties needed to resume mediation. Among the issues, he said the port needed to consider its drive for a 12 per cent return which would be "very difficult" to achieve simply by placing pressure on staff.

Not that this is getting him anywhere with the New Zealand Herald, who are having a field day over his past comment about "not taking sides". Which perfectly illustrates the problem with being a fence-sitter: even when you make your mind up over where you stand, you get no credit, and no-one appreciates it. Your enemies call you a hypocrite, your friends doubt your commitment, and both see you as weak and vacillating. Just like Phil Goff.

Meanwhile, while the local noise is useful in pressuring the Auckland Council to rescind its insane profit requirement and reign in its rogue management, the real battle is happening overseas. Also on Saturday, dockworkers in Sydeny refused to unload a ship loaded by scab labour at Auckland, and the US International Longshore and Warehouse Union have said they will do the same. The message is clear: dock in Auckland, and your ship will never be unloaded anywhere again. Which means ships will avoid Auckland, until the port company makes a decent settlement with the union. A sane port company would settle at this point (hell, they would have settled long ago; its not as if the union has been unreasonable here). A responsible council would insist on it to protect the value of their asset. The question now is whether the Auckland Council are going to let Tony Gibson's psychopathy utterly destroy the value of a public asset. And if he's intent on going down that path, they should take the appropriate measures to sack him and get someone more reasonable who will be a better trustee of the people's port.