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Mediation today ahead of strike planned by AirNZ’s engineers

News from eTu
Aviation unions say they are very disappointed with the misleading information released by Air New Zealand in response to a strike notice by its aviation engineers. The engineers and logistics workers have voted to issue strike notices in response to Air New Zealand’s demands for cuts to their conditions.

Air New Zealand is making record profits thanks to union members, and Engineering members have rejected the airline’s demands for clawbacks, says Savage, E tū’s Head of Aviation.

“No one wants to disrupt people’s Christmas plans, but Air New Zealand has taken an unnecessarily aggressive approach.

“This is not just about pay. It’s about repeated proposals by the airline weeks out from Christmas to pay them less than colleagues who have already settled, and to cut into key conditions, including overtime rates.

“This affects line and hangar engineers, but also store workers and aircraft cleaners, who are covered by the same document and who are struggling to get ahead,” he says. “Our members feel under-appreciated and under attack. The ballot results show an overwhelming resolve to take action to defend themselves.”

Both unions have already agreed to mediation on Monday with airline representatives, to try to resolve the dispute and avert a strike, the first of which is scheduled for 21 December.

More than 970 engineering members of E tū and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association voted 95 percent to strike, at meetings this week in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Savage says Air New Zealand has very high union membership, though strike action is extremely rare.

“Aviation workers don’t make these decisions without good cause. In aviation, there is a constant downward pressure on costs driven by airlines. The result is a race to the bottom on wages and conditions,” says Savage. “New Zealand needs to remain a high-wage high-skilled economy. Aviation is a life blood industry. We will be in mediation with Air NZ Engineering management first thing on Monday and will carry on bargaining in good faith in the hopes of reaching a deal,” he said.

News from Air New Zealand
Thousands of holiday plans are at risk after the unions representing Air New Zealand’s aircraft maintenance engineers, aircraft logistics and related staff served notice of a planned strike just four days out from Christmas – on the airline’s busiest travel day of the year.

The Aviation and Marine Engineers Association (AMEA) and E tū, notified the airline yesterday evening of a total strike by almost a thousand unionised employees on Friday 21 December. The unions have also advised to expect further industrial action.

Close to 42,000 customers booked to travel domestically and internationally on 21 December now face potential flight cancellations.

The average income of the maintenance engineers, logistics and other staff to strike is $115,000 – more than double the average wage in New Zealand – and around 170 of them earn more than $150,000. Work undertaken by this employee group includes carrying out scheduled aircraft maintenance, unscheduled repair work and signing off aircraft prior to departure, as well as managing the availability of aircraft parts and related activities.

While the group has received pay increases annually for the past 12 years, it has so far rejected recent proposals by the airline including an immediate two percent pay increase followed by a further three percent increase after 12 months, with a further pay review in mid-2021.

Staff have also declined a proposal to standardise overtime pay to 150% of regular pay rate (currently overtime is paid at a mix of double time and time and a half), and a corresponding $6400 one off payment to address the change in rate. Only some of this workgroup does regular overtime but the payment would be made to everyone employed under this collective agreement.

Along with pay, claims on the aircraft maintenance engineers’ side have included an extra week of annual leave for employees with five years’ service (taking shift workers to six weeks a year), free reserved car parking spaces within 500 metres of their workplace, and the right to renegotiate terms just prior to the busy Christmas season again next year.

Air New Zealand General Manager Aircraft Maintenance Viv de Beus says the news is extremely disappointing and it appears the engineers are deliberately using Kiwi families’ much anticipated Christmas holidays as a bargaining chip.

“We know how important summer holidays are for our customers who look forward to being able to gather with friends and family at this important time of year. It would be devastating to see the holiday plans of more than 40,000 hardworking Kiwis and international visitors ruined.

“We have only been in negotiations with this group for six weeks so industrial action is entirely premature. We remain committed to working closely with the engineers’ unions to reach a reasonable agreement and avoid strike action if at all possible.”

Air New Zealand will communicate with customers booked to travel on 21 December closer to the travel date if these workers go ahead with their strike action. Customers are asked to avoid calling the airline’s customer contact centre in the meantime as no further information is available at this stage. Customers booked to travel on Air New Zealand’s regional turbo-prop aircraft fleet will not be affected as this fleet is maintained by a separate work group.

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