Air New Zealand hopes to halt strike
Unions will meet with Air New Zealand on Monday to try to resolve a pay dispute and avert a strike planned for the airline’s busiest travel day of the year.
Air New Zealand aircraft maintenance engineers, aircraft logistics and related staff have scheduled a strike four days out from Christmas.
Air New Zealand said the close to 42,000 customers booked to travel domestically and internationally on that date would face potential flight cancellations if it went ahead.
The Aviation and Marine Engineers Association (AMEA) and E tu¯ notified the airline on Thursday of a total strike by almost 1000 unionised employees on December 21.
The unions have also advised the airline to expect further action.
Aircraft maintenance engineers work in the hangar at airports and in workshops to carry out maintenance, identify defects, undertake modifications, repair and service.
That includes signing off aircraft prior to departure, as well as managing the availability of aircraft parts.
The airline said that while the group has received pay increases annually for the past 12 years, it has so far rejected recent proposals, including an immediate 2 per cent increase followed by a further 3 per cent rise after 12 months, with a further pay review in mid-2021.
Staff have also declined a proposal to standardise overtime pay to 150 per cent of the regular pay rate (currently, overtime is paid at a mix of double time and time-and-a-half), and a $6400 one-off payment to address the change in rate.
Only some of this work group did regular overtime but the payment would be made to everyone employed under the collective agreement, the airline said.
Along with pay, claims on the aircraft maintenance engineers’ side have included an extra week of annual leave for employees with five years’ service, free reserved carparking spaces within 500 metres of their workplace, and the right to renegotiate terms just prior to the busy Christmas season again next year, the airline said.
In a statement, AMEA said the pay offer was unfair at a time when the airline was making substantial profits. It was less than offers made to other employee groups at the airline and members felt insulted.
‘‘We have been in negotiations with Air New Zealand for months. If Air New Zealand was genuinely concerned about its customers, it would have resolved this matter early and quietly.’’
AMEA’s statement said the engineers had been threatened with more heavy maintenance work being sent overseas. ‘‘In 2013, heavy maintenance wide-body checks, then carried out in Auckland, were outsourced to Asia. In the same year Air New Zealand tried to force one group of engineers to carry out the work of another. This followed a significant contracting out of heavy maintenance work in 2006.
‘‘Air New Zealand is now threatening to send narrow-body heavy maintenance work overseas, which is currently performed in Christchurch. These are highly qualified employees who ensure aircraft are safe to fly. They have been repeatedly kicked by management, and they have had enough.’’
The union said the workers were not only fighting for a decent pay rise but for the future of aircraft maintenance in New Zealand.
The airline said the average income of the maintenance engineers, logistics and other staff to strike was $115,000 and about 170 of them earn more than $150,000.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon, meanwhile, earned more than $4 million in the year ended on June 30.
Air New Zealand’s general manager of aircraft maintenance, Viv de Beus, said it appeared the engineers were deliberately using Kiwi families’ holidays as a bargaining chip.
E tu¯ ’s head of aviation, Savage, said the unions were disappointed with ‘‘misleading information’’ released by the airline in relation to the strike notice.