Striking Lyttelton port workers set to get back around negotiating table

Striking Lyttelton dock workers are set to get back around the negotiating table tomorrow, after progress in their standoff with the port company.

At New Zealand's third largest port, 200 workers yesterday went on strike after pay and safety talks reached a stalemate.

Today, the workers were taking their demands to the street, picketing outside a Christchurch City Holdings board meeting.

They were appealing to the body which effectively owns the port to intervene in the industrial dispute, and it eventually brought chairperson Jeremy Smith down to meet them.

Although he accepted their letter, his board can't intervene.

"We don't have the rights to step in and resolve it," Mr Smith said.

The union's offer was to suspend strike action for the next two days, which led to a mediation meeting with the port tomorrow.

"We're hoping they'll come to the table in a positive frame of mind and that we can cut a deal," Union member John Kerr said.

Despite agreeing to mediation tomorrow, the port company has asked the workers if they will extend the withdrawal of strike action until March 20 so they have time to get ships back into the port.

The union has agreed to that request but is standing firm on demanding the same pay deal offered to the port's other union.

"If Lyttelton gets away with it you can bet your bottom dollar every other port a New Zealand will try the same thing so we have to nip this in the bud," union general secretary Wayne Butson said.

But many Canterbury business are already losing patience, and money.

Workers numbering 200 brought the country's third largest port to a standstill yesterday. Source: 1 NEWS