Price hikes loom over port action
Friday, 30 March 2012 | 00:00
Auckland's bitter port dispute could soon hit shoppers in the pocket, with price rises looming for computers, clothing and electronic goods.
Yesterday a major shipping line hiked its "Auckland Strike Surcharge" and experts are warning that retailers will likely pass that increased cost to shoppers.
Shipping line Maersk introduced the strike surcharge of between $95 and $190, depending on the size of the containers, on March 2.
But yesterday, in a statement to customers it revealed those charges are set to increase to between $158 and $317 on May 1.
The statement said that since the surcharge was implemented "the situation has worsened and the entire service network has reached saturation point".
As a result, Importers Institute secretary Daniel Silva said retailers will likely review their costs.
"Of course there will be higher costs on top of the retailers paying for the strike surcharges, it's just one of the ongoing costs the strike is causing," he said.
"There won't be an immediate change, but retailers review costs on an ongoing basis and in time prices will rise to cover those costs. I don't think it will be a huge difference, but if you compare an item you bought three months ago to what an item costs in the next few months you will see a difference in price."
Silva said all importers were being hit by the surcharge.
"We import just about everything - from computers to machinery to raw material to clothing, basically everything that involves production, and most of it comes from China," he said.
Maersk said it had incurred "significant extra costs" by absorbing extra charges associated with the strike.
"As a result our contingencies have become increasingly more expensive and difficult to operate, vessels are delayed longer as the congestion is slowing down port productivity and the supply of empty equipment to other NZ ports has become a complex and costly process," the statement said.
The surcharge will remain in place until Ports of Auckland resolves its dispute with the striking wharfies and returns to a normal operating level.
The disruption of the strikes has already seen Maersk and dairy giant Fonterra move trade to other ports.
Industrial action between the port and the Maritime Union has been ongoing since November, with Ports of Auckland on the brink of dismissing nearly 300 workers.
A lockout notice for April 6 had been issued to workers, despite the two sides going through mediation.
The two sides will meet again on Friday in the Employment Court to argue over whether the April 6 lockout is legal and whether Ports of Auckland can offer voluntary redundancy to the workers.
In the meantime, some unionised members who are not casual workers will be paid a week's wages in "good faith" before the planned lockout.
Source: Fairfax NZ News
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