The Keep Our Port Public
meeting in Christchurch last night went well. I estimate around 250 people attended, making it the largest public meeting I have attended in Christchurch for some time.
Sir Kerry Burke spoke as a private individual and as a member of the local body community grouping Christchurch 2021. Burke said he remained committed to the vision statement of 2021 which clearly undertakes to retain public ownership and control of strategic trading enterprises, especially the port, the airport and power utilities. Garry Moore, the man who now wants to sell the port, was also elected on a 2021 ticket. Burke said "this proposal disadvantages all citizens, no matter where they come from. I wonder whether selling off is actually the best way to deal with our assets
Burke described the move by Christchurch City Holdings (CCHL) as clumsy and said there was no need for desperate measures, as there was no 'financial crisis' (I was a little concerned at this point Burke might attempt to justify the selloffs that occurred during the forth Labour Government which Burke was part of - thankfully he didn't)
The stand out speech of the night came from Murray Horton of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa
. His characterisation of the recent about face of the Christchurch City Council was especially well recieved
"And it looks like there will be more to come - the Council has removed both its Red Bus Company and contracting business, City Care, from the list of strategic assets to be protected. The Mayor, Garry Moore, has swung around from being the proud Chairman of the People's Republic to being the Chairman of Christchurch Inc. run, by for and of, Big Business. Actually in honour of who is actually running the show in Tuam Street, I think it should be named the corporate Republic of McTurkey."
[cue biggest laugh of the night]
Referring of course to Lesley McTurk, the City Manager appointed by Moore who has overseen a massive clearout of experienced staff at the same time many people wonder whether McTurk is really acting as an additional and unelected City councilor.
Unfortunately I didn't hear a great deal of RMTU Secretary Wayne Butson's speech as I was busy distributing petition forms around the hall.
Trevor Hansen of the Rail and Maritime Union explained how free trade agreements were assisting the shipping companies in creating 'ports of convenience' - a system that will give large shipping companies more power to drive down wages and export profits at the expense of local communities.
A 2004 issue of Transport International describes what a "port of convenience" looks like: "Inexperienced, untrained, casual non-union labour is gradually replacing skilled unionised workforces in may ports, as terminal operators succumb to pressure from shipowners, shippers and politicians to embrace fundamentalist market ideologies. Ultimately this means the introduction of many labour cost saving policies: reducing the standard of working conditions, introducing total flexibility of working times and tasks, employing unorganised workers and flying in cheap labour from countries where trade unions are forbidden or severely restricted."
Green party MP Metiria Turei explained how the sale of local assets to overseas interests has significant negative impacts on a national scale
, such as our horrendous current account deficit. Metiria also found it was shocking there had been no consultation about the proposed sale. I liked her speech - probably because it had a strong focus on the privatisation issue and maintaining public ownership of strategic assets - so it came acrosss as a real lefty speech :)
A few hours before the meeting Christchurch Labour MPs (except Dalziel) released a statement
expressing "serious concerns" about the proposal of the city council to sell part of the port to Hutchison. Better late than never! KOPP spokesperson Murray Horton immediately called on the MPs to translate their opposition into Government action
While the Press reports that no-one from CCHL or LPC attended the meeting we have since found out there was a CCHL mole in attendence, who declined to make him or herself known despite a polite request from the chair. One person owned up to being on the City Council and was welcomed.
Labels: buses, employment, local body politics, ports, privatisation, transport, unions