Weekend Sun   

Unions clash with Port over safety concerns

Straddle crane operators have raised concerns about injuries they claim to have sustained at work. Photo: John Borren.

The Port of Tauranga is disputing claims from workers and the Maritime Union of New Zealand that safety is not a priority at the port.

The allegations come from straddle crane drivers and MUNZ national secretary Craig Harrison.

Craig says long shifts and a relentless drive for profit over the wellbeing of workers are underlying issues at ports, and the Port of Tauranga is notorious for the bad conditions of many workers inside the port gates.

A Port of Tauranga spokesperson says: “We completely reject any suggestion that Port of Tauranga does not care about the health and safety of port workers.

“All workers at Port of Tauranga, no matter their employer, are encouraged to report safety concerns and to refuse to use equipment if they believe it is unsafe.”

The claims come after three straddle crane drivers spoke to Newshub anonymously about the serious back injuries they have sustained while working at the port.

Two of the drivers still work at the port and are employed by C3 Limited or ISL, which contracts with the Port of Tauranga. The other driver was let go in April after five years at C3 because of an injury he claims he sustained onsite.

The drivers claim port management’s focus is “profit over people”, and the port’s straddles are poorly maintained, according to the Newshub report.

Both MUNZ and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, which represents workers at Port of Tauranga and at C3, have backed the crane drivers for speaking out.

RMTU central North Island organiser Dasha Van Silfhout says there is no doubt there is a problem at the port, and similar issues exist elsewhere.

“Straddle drivers work long shifts in sometimes difficult conditions, at night, or in poor weather,” she says.

Dasha claims the physical and mental stress of the job comes with a high cost for many workers, however the Port spokesperson says all workers have unrestricted access to the safety reporting system, and there is a dedicated email address that anyone can use to raise concerns and do so anonymously if they wish.

“The container terminal is a high traffic environment with lots of heavy machinery,” they say.

Since October 2020, it has also been running with 50 per cent more containers than usual because of shipping congestion, says the spokesperson.

“This means a lot of additional straddle traffic, and wear and tear on the pavement. Our civil works team inspects the site daily and any problems are immediately fixed, or blocked off until they can be repaired.

“On top of this, we have a multi-disciplinary team looking at short-term and long-term fixes for pavement issues.

“Port of Tauranga welcomes any efforts to improve health and safety in the port sector and we actively participate in multiple forums at a national level to achieve this.

“We work closely with the unions that represent port workers in Tauranga.”

Dasha says RMTU has approached C3 and the Port of Tauranga and are keen to see the issue resolved.

The Union is supporting calls for impact sensors on straddles which would measure the potential impact on straddle operators as well as machinery, she says.


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