One of the major controversies of the first three years of the new Auckland Council has been the behaviour of the wholly Council owned companyports of auckland Ports of Auckland (POAL).

POAL are one of those entities deliberately put at arms length from democratic control under Rodney Hide’s legislation. In this case, POAL is at two arms length from Council. It has its own Board that reports into Auckland Council Investments Ltd (ACIL), which is itself a CCO with an independent Board, and largely free from Council oversight.

Over the past three years POAL have disgraced themselves, and their ultimate owner, Auckland Council. Quite simply, their behaviour towards their own workforce has been abominable. Their approach has been brutish, highlighted by a lockout of its long-serving workforce, which a judge later issued an injunction against. Late last year they were issued with a $40,000 fine by the court illegally breaching the Employment Relations Act. Earlier they were outed for leaking sick leave records about a staff members who was caring for his dying wife, to the gutter blogger Cameron Slater.

Prior to all of that, internal documents showed that POAL had a pre-meditated strategy of trying to de-unionise the port. It is therefore little wonder that two years into the dispute, it is still not resolved. POAL refuse to release information about how much money the dispute has cost them and ratepayers, and information about how much their ongoing legal costs have drained away.

City Vision has consistently expressed our concern about POAL’s behaviour, and in our view their breaches of the law and of responsible conduct mean that the issue has governance implications. The Board of POAL should be sacked by its owner ACIL, and if they will not act then the Board of ACIL should also go. More broadly, the current governance arrangements which have led to such a shocking lack of accountability should be reviewed with the intention of creating a far more direct relationship between Council and its 100% owned company.

We believe that employment relations should be carried out in good faith between employer and employee, and at the elected level we would never want to get involved in the details of negotiations. However Council must have some basic ethical standard in the way it treats people, and POAL has clearly breached those. You can read about our commitment to international conventions around worker rights and collective bargaining in our policy section.

POAL is a publicly owned company, but its behaviour is out of line with the standards we should expect of an organisation that we all have a stake in. City Vision will act to ensure that POAL not only continues in public ownership, but that it behaves in a way that we can all have confidence in. That should include a fair collective agreement with the Maritime Union.