Air New Zealand hopes to halt strike

The Dominion Post - - News - Su­san Ed­munds and John An­thony

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.

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