The recent scandal over Air New Zealand underpaying its Chinese workers to the tune of four times less than their New Zealand counterparts comes as no surprise given the sick management culture at our national carrier, and highlights some serious contradictions in the airline’s ownership structure.
Here we have a company that’s 80% owned by us, the New Zealand public, and yet because it is structured as a private company it’s allowed to act unethically and even undermine our national interests in the pursuit of short-term profit.
You will recall how Air New Zealand secretly ferried troops to Iraq in defiance of the New Zealand public, half-succeeded in gutting our high-skill, high-wage aircraft engineering industry, and has tried to cut the wages of thousands of Kiwi workers by contracting their jobs to third parties at lower rates and outsourcing anything that can’t be nailed down to low-wage economies.
It’s time we got some democratic control over our national carrier by bringing it into full public ownership and strengthened our labour laws to stop the airline undermining its workers’ pay and conditions.
Helen Clark shouldn’t be excusing Air New Zealand’s behaviour – she should be nationalising it.