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“Strikers in New Zealand resort to Youtube to settle work dispute”

A strike at New Zealand’s Ports of Auckland garnered worldwide attention when the workers and affected families posted a video about their cause on Youtube. Alisha Lewis, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from New Zealand, reports.

“My dad is not lazy” says the son of an Auckland ‘wharfie’ in a YouTube video released by the Maritime Union in response to an ongoing dispute over working conditions.

The three-minute video, which was released last week, has already had over 6,000 views. It shows Ports of Auckland workers and their families talking about the reasons behind the Union’s recent four week strike.

More than 300 workers have gone on strike in protest at the casualisation and contracting out of jobs being promoted by the Auckland City owned port.

Full time Stevedore and Vice President of the Maritime Union, Carl Findlay, was one of the workers featured in the video along with his two teenage children. He says the video’s overall message is that casualisation, which would see the loss of fixed rosters, is “anti-family”.

“It’s morally unacceptable what they’re trying to do to all 330 workers down there.”

Findlay says the idea to take the families’ message to YouTube came from the Council of Trade Unions. “When the CTU got involved, they really upped the ante. Helen Kelly, who’s the head of the Council of Trade Unions, came along to a couple of our mediation sessions and she was gobsmacked, basically, that the port company was so arrogant. So she decided to get involved and we took all the help we could.”

However the Ports of Auckland says the messages put forward by the families are misleading to the public. “I know there is a lot of misinformation in that video” says Communications Executive for the Ports of Auckland, Dee Radhakrishnan. “It’s the same information they’ve been putting out from day one. So we’ve been handing out a misinformation sheet to whoever contacts us about it.”

The Ports of Auckland aren’t the only ones who aren’t buying into the families’ plea. While many have used YouTube’s online comment section to share messages of solidarity, some have taken the opportunity to voice alternate opinions.

“Get with the program – unions suck”, says one commenter. “Industries that are dominated by unions struggle the most! So maybe unions are the problem! I’m waiting for the penny to drop.”

Despite such comments, Findlay says the overall response to the video has been positive. “Everyone’s really impressed with the message that’s been put across. They didn’t realise how it’s been affecting the families. There hasn’t been too much negativity about it. I mean, there’s always someone…but generally everyone’s been positive.”

Social Media Consultant, Simon Young, was particularly impressed with the Union’s handling of conflicting opinions and says occasional negativity is part and parcel with online campaigning.

“That’s the difference between the media now and, say, twenty years ago. You’ve got to recognise that it’s going into a place of public debate. It’s almost like the production piece, is only the beginning. The rest of it is actually answering the questions or countering the counter arguments that come up.”

Young says that the concept of online campaigning via mediums like YouTube is becoming more and more common. “People use whatever they can to get the message across. I think it’s good they can use YouTube, they don’t have to pay for TV airtime or fit it into only thirty seconds…they can tell more of their story.”

The YouTube video also provides links to the Maritime Union’s other campaign pages including an online petition and a Facebook page created for the upcoming rally on March 10.

Watch the YouTube video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTsm90fuXdM&feature=youtu.be

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About me:

“I’m a journalism student from Auckland, New Zealand. Originally from India, my family moved to New Zealand when I was four years old. I love writing – both creative and transactional – as well as reading, theatre, travelling and dancing.

“Aside from studying, I work as an intern for ONE News – at TVNZ, our national broadcaster – and as sub-editor for my university magazine. I hope to enter into journalism, ultimately working for established editorial publications within New Zealand or overseas.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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