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The Air New Zealand Industrial dispute

Written By: - Date published: 7:49 am, December 11th, 2018 - 53 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, Economy, jacinda ardern, john key, Judith Collins, labour, national, same old national, Unions, wages, workers' rights - Tags:

After a decade of pent up frustration at stalled wage talks and non existing wage increases there has been a certain amount of industrial action recently.

The latest news involves Air New Zealand.  And it provides a text book example on how important media is concerning strikes.

Management got in first:

Air New Zealand engineers have outlined plans to strike on the airline’s busiest travel day of the year, putting Christmas travel plans at risk for tens of thousands of travellers.

The unions (The Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and E tū) representing Air New Zealand’s aircraft maintenance engineers, aircraft logistics and related staff served a notice of the planned action only four days before Christmas.

The strike action is set to involve almost 1000 staff members on December 21, and could affect the travel plans of 42,000 customers booked to travel on that day.

The strike action involves a pay dispute, in regard to annual increases in staff pay.

A statement from Air New Zealand said that while the group of engineers has received pay increases annually for the past 12 years, it has so far rejected recent proposals by the airline including an immediate two per cent pay increase followed by a further three per cent increase after 12 months, with a further pay review in mid-2021.

Air New Zealand said the average income of the maintenance engineers, logistics and other staff to strike is $115,000 – and around 170 of them earn more than $150,000.

In addition to the pay concerns, staff are also asking for 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 described the proposed strike action as extremely disappointing.

“It would be devastating to see the holiday plans of more than 40,000 hardworking Kiwis and international visitors ruined,” de Beus said.

“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.”

Going public and blaming the union for taking action is hardly the thing that an employer wanting to maintain good relations would do.  But the first thing you do if you want to win the all important PR battle.

Etu has responded:

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.”

And yes Air New Zealand made its second highest profit ever, $540 million last year.  For it to try and wind back wages and conditions when it is doing so well is appalling.

This guy has turned up to provide independent unbiased commentary.

And National MPs are salivating at the chance to claim we are going to have 1970s style industrial relations and that it is all Labour’s fault.

Of course Collins’s claim has been debunked repeatedly but why let facts get in the way of attack politics and right wing political rhetoric.

I suspect that if this dispute does not settle then it will trigger some intense anti union rhetoric from the right.  This could be an interesting couple of weeks.

53 comments on “The Air New Zealand Industrial dispute”

  1. Tuppence Shrewsbury 1

    So striking on the busiest flying day of the year is the right way to get what the unions want. Think of the tens of thousands of people, on less money than these engineers, who’ve scrimped to pay for airfares now uncertain if they’ll make it home for Christmas. A family time. They could have striked after Christmas when everyone is going home. More effective and just as disruptive.

    But no, ruin christmas, see how many people agree with the unions

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Why blame the workers? What about the company for trying to wind back wages and conditions when it is making huge profits?

      Demands for cuts were bound to provoke a response.

      • NZJester 1.1.1

        Timing is everything in these industrial disputes and they would have started the demands for the wind back in the lead up to the busy Xmas time knowing it would have a high chance to lead to a strike. They, not the union decided to use their customers as pawns to have media ammunition against the unions to paint them as the bad guy. If you were to find the original press release word documents sent by Air NZ to the press and checked what date they were created I bet they would date to before they first even started to talk to the unions.
        I would not be surprised if this all leads back to John Key himself as the man behind the idea to strip away the worker right at Air NZ. After all, while he was PM of NZ he was doing just that on a larger scale.

      • Tuppence Shrewsbury 1.1.2

        I think Air New Zealand has a lot to answer for. I doubt it would be able to cop completely with the busiest day of the year without an engineers strike. their customer service is piss poor and there punctuality is almost offensive.

        Engineers know this, why add to the frustration to ruin christmas? why not get more public sympathy by striking after christmas when people need to get back to work and away from their extended family. Imagine being stuck with Uncle Nev for another night because you couldn’t fly? then imagine missing out on the pre christmas family bbq because you couldn’t fly. which one would you be more pissed at the engineers at.

        Just because a union does something mickey, doesn’t’ mean it’s 100% right in the matter

      • Grantoc 1.1.3

        Because the worker’s unions control when strikes are called and they call them when it suits them within the law.

        Employers don’t call for strikes nor can control when they happen.

        In any case a disgruntled traveler on the 21st of December who is frustrated by not being able to travel and who’s Christmas plans are disrupted by striking staff is not going to say themselves:

        “Well I’m really ok about having my Christmas holiday plans disrupted because I support striking Air NZ employees who already earn more than me. I know their claims are much more important than my Christmas plans with my family and friends so I’ll just suck it up.”

        If these unions think they’re going to get the public’s sympathy for striking on the 21st then they’re whistling in the wind.

        If the government thinks the travelling public will not ultimately blame them for this situation, then it too is whistling in the wind.

        • patricia bremner 1.1.3.1

          “They won’t get sympathy from the travelling public”
          That is exactly why these employers front foot aggressive tactics getting journalists and bloggers like you to point out “You are well paid” and “You want more?” Rather than, “Hey Air NZ, you are being a bad employer, as these people have worked to help you make a record profit and you don’t want to share that? Shame!!”
          I see J Key’s hand in this.

          • Tuppence Shrewsbury 1.1.3.1.1

            A typical purse lipped statement of conspiracy from you Patricia. It’s either the msm or the national party right?

            The government owns 70 odd percent of air nz. I sense grant Robertson’s hand in the refusal to grant the engineers their Christmas wish list

            • patricia bremner 1.1.3.1.1.1

              Rubbish, the Board has the say.

              • Tuppence Shrewsbury

                And the board is employed by the shareholders and are required to produce them the highest possible value. So the shareholders are in charge here

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Considering National’s refrain about hard-working Kiwis I’d expect you to support those hard-working Kiwis to get more of the value that they produced rather than that of the shareholders who produced no value at all.

                • Red Blooded One

                  No question the Board is working for the Shareholders but it is the Board that is in charge. Shareholders only have any power to influence the Board once a year at voting time when we insignificant little shareholders get to vote for the Board.

            • Red Blooded One 1.1.3.1.1.2

              70% odd? The Govt owes 51% Tuppence. Math or facts not your strong point? I ask through pursed lips of course.

      • the other pat 1.1.4

        why???…..because its the workers striking thats why…..reminds people of the cook strait ferries way back……their organisers and the members need their heads read…..no public support equals no sympathy from the public and gives the tories ammunition to slay the left……im a union rep myself and i disagree with the timing of this…..anz company fucks only win here regardless how fucking retarded and evil they are

  2. Antoine 2

    We shall hope that the airline makes some good concessions

    A.

  3. Ankerrawshark 3

    I have gone on strike from flying Air NZ as much as possible. Fly trans Tasman a bit and they don’t serve you a meal on the plane. Qantas do. I also despise the safety instructions videos that must cost the airline a lot of money, and imo are distracting from the safety message (one extrely sexiest including supermodel babes in bikinis in very poor taste. ). They have money to splash around on this BS, but not to pay the workers who keep the planes safe up in the sky!!!!

    I think an airline engineer should earn over $100000. What a stressful job that must be. Worked with a guy:many,many years ago who had signed off the Erebus plane (engineer) and described months of agony wondering if he’d done something wrong after the plane crashed

    And oh just while I think of it I wish JOHN key would piss off to Hawaii for good

  4. Michelle 4

    They (air nz) made record profits pay them what they have asked and get on with it
    (the business) they paid out bonuses so whats wrong with a pay increase

  5. greywarshark 5

    The Unions have done this before, and i recall the infamous Cooks and Stewards Union on the ferries – striking at times of important holidays and family get togethers which Christmas enables.

    By acting at this time to cause maximum disruption to people and the airline, they are behaving as irresponsibly and unfairly as their bosses. There is no way of getting round this.

    The Unions have a fair grievance but that doesn’t turn workers using dirty tactics to the people of NZ into spotless white angels. Keep the pressure up, go on strike if necessary after the holiday season, people will still notice and feel upset but understand, if they aren’t mindless money-maniacs like John Key and Christopher Luxon, ex cleaning products company leader. He and Key’s henchmen and women need to clean up their act for sure. The Unions shouldn’t stoop so low.

    It is wrong and there is nothing good and fair and reasonable about going on strike around Christmas-January.

    • Rae 5.1

      And that is what the public are seeing, rightly or wrongly. Helen Kelly did so much good work in restoring some mana for unions and unionism. All of that could go with the timing of these strikes. Again, rightly or wrongly.
      Take the public with you, is all I can advise.

  6. indiana 6

    Pfffttt….Air New Zealand should just do what all other airlines around the world do, and outsource Engineering and Ground Handling.

  7. millsy 7

    People forget that the 1970’s boasted the highest living standards in this country history. If being inconvienced every so often because of the odd strike is the price for overtime, shift allowances, generous pay raises, job security, full employment, and being able to pay other bills after housing costs, then that is a price worth paying. If National had their way, we would be all on minimum wage for our working lives with no sick leave or holidays, and if we join a union, no work.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      If National had their way, we would be all on minimum wage for our working lives with no sick leave or holidays, and if we join a union, no work.

      And there wouldn’t be a minimum wage.

    • ankerawshark 7.2

      And Millsy, during the 1970, before Roger Douglas Maori suicide rates were comparable to Pakeha……………………………..so neoliberal economics caused major disruption to the lives of many (to put it mildly). Maori suffered the most and we have had a growing suicide rate for Maori ever since…………………

      BTW I now no longer think of it as Labour. It was Douglas, Prebble et al who high jacked the party and then formed ACT. Their true home

      • Enough is Enough 7.2.1

        “BTW I now no longer think of it as Labour. It was Douglas, Prebble et al who high jacked the party and then formed ACT. Their true home”

        Yet their fundamental reforms remain in place which in my mind down not make the Clark or Jacinda lead Labour governments any better than the Lange government.

        This government is in its infancy and has the opportunity to do great things. But other than tinkering around the edges, it has yet to do anything which reverses the destructive polices of Rogernomics.

        • aom 7.2.1.1

          Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope. The proposed education changes look like the rolling back of Rogernomics/neo-liberalism. We may see more to ward off the inevitability of NZ’s gilets jaunes.

          • gsays 7.2.1.1.1

            hear hear, aom.
            best news in an age, maximising cooperating and diminishing the competing.

            also, taking a community need focus over a ‘shareholder’ view is a step forward and a step away from the ‘reforms’.

            heh.. i had to look up gilets jaunes.

      • patricia bremner 7.2.2

        Yes 1000% right They were a Trojan Horse.

    • greywarshark 7.3

      millsy
      I think you have the telescope pointed the wrong way at the 1970s. Having too many strikes as we did, when we “had overtime, shift allowances, generous pay raises, job security, full employment” etc. – is one of the reasons that we haven’t got those advantages now.

      Airily going on in wish-fulfilment mode instead of hard-headed planning on how to keep what we had, and build more jobs and a strong economy on it, bringing down inflation was a mistake made by workers with a simple focus and little overview. A good union economist to advise how to work with business for the workers’ long-term benefit was needed then. Unfortunately Peter Conway didn’t start as economist with the CTU until 2000.
      https://www.nbr.co.nz/article/new-zealand-union-veteran-peter-conway-has-died-jw-173913

      Conway rose to national attention when he joined the CTU as its economist. In 2008 he was persuaded to take on the onerous role of CTU secretary.
      It was a tough time – the National Government was in power and Conway often found himself battling strong political forces.
      Did his job wear him down and lead to the depression that enveloped him? No-one could say for sure, but those close to him felt it took a toll.

      The Air New Zealand Industrial dispute

      This was an interview with Peter Conway in 2009 where he gives his views on the Rogernomics years among other things.
      http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/local-papers/the-wellingtonian/1390883/The-Wellingtonian-interview-Peter-Conway

      https://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2015/06/ropes-of-sand-honouring-memory-of-peter.html
      A trade union leader loses his battle with acute depressive illness.
      In the NZ Herald of 10/6/15 the death of Peter Conway, former Secretary of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – at over 300,000 strong, this country’s largest voluntary organisation – merited precisely 63 words.

      Please note that this good, committed and talented man went into a decline trying to help unionists and died from a ‘depressive’ illness. Would unionists please think their situation through and use their brains and not just start the mousewheel going again. The result will again be one of killing off opportunities of betterment for workers, and possibly killing off the people at the coalface of negotiation with business. Use your experience to make wise judgments of your tactics please.

      Conway [1953-2015] died trying to hold onto a union system tattered and torn because of lack of an intelligent game plan, and Helen Kelly is another strong advocate lost. The old union bosses who failed workers in the end, were able to live out long lives, unlike the later generation.
      https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5k13/knox-walter-james
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Skinner

      Unionists need to act more strategically, and not automatically follow leaders like Knox and his ilk by demanding more and causing the old criticism of ‘holding the country to ransom’. Striking at holiday times indicates nothing has been learned. It seems that there are unionists who are careless of unions’ standing among the general public. There will be a net loss from this strike if it is persisted with.

      • Nic the NZer 7.3.1

        I seriously doubt the, international political movement which invaded NZ in the late seventies, was in any way caused by NZ union actions.

  8. Gabby 8

    Sirponyboy needs the money to bring in another guest speaker.

  9. ankerawshark 9

    Gabby, lol but too true.

  10. mary_a 10

    I wonder what the serial ponytail puller and hair fondler pervert receives financially and in perks for being a member of Air NZ’s board? Bet it is considerably more than what the airline’s engineers, logistics personnel and cleaners et al receive!

    The creepy ponytail tugger’s position on the board makes no difference to safety, whereas the engineers and logistics staff do, as do the cleaners who contribute to airline hygiene!

    My daughter is booked to fly down here on 21 Dec with Air NZ. However she is supporting the engineers and other related staff with their claims, despite the inconvenience.

    • Jilly Bee 10.1

      Yep, mary_a, my partner and I are booked to fly to Melbourne on 21st December with Air New Zealand to spend time with family over Xmas and I still support the engineers and related staff. As long as they’re still talking as at Tuesday afternoon, there is hope of a solution.

    • patricia bremner 10.2

      Good for her Mary_a. Solidarity is what we need. They (Key and c/o) like to divide and conquer.

      • Red Blooded One 10.2.1

        Air NZ has played the divide and conquer game with mastery for years. They are ruthless which is why that little creep Key fits in so well. Good luck to the Engineers. I know if my butt was sitting on a plane seat on Dec 21 I would want it to have been serviced by someone well rested and well remunerated for their skills.

  11. Michelle 11

    key might be respected in the business world but many kiwis cant stand the sight of the him including myself

    • patricia bremner 11.1

      Respect? No no ….. a little feared for his snide underhand power plays which have always seen him leaving BEFORE any disaster. Teflon John.

  12. R.P Mcmurphy 12

    why is it that the employer of the best trained workforce in new zealand wants to screw down these workers to the status of day labourers.
    this is just plain crummy.

    • patricia bremner 12.1

      Air NZ really wanted to outsource these aspects of the business.. Why were these workers separated from other agreements already settled? It bodes ill.

  13. ken 13

    Someone who I know works for Air NZ – says thing have got pretty nasty there since John Key turned up.

    • tc 13.1

      I heard it started under Noriss, continued with zeal by Fyfe and now it’s gone full banksta.

      It’s what happens when profit is everything……people are just commodities you want to pay the least you can to. Look up to the board and share registry, created by shonky flogging off a chunk and you’ll see why.

      • Red Blooded One 13.1.1

        Air NZ has always had a terrible staff relations attitude but yeah Noriss, was a shocker and Fyfe just smile and trousers. The current boss has no respect for the staff either. Strange for a company who’s greatest assets are it’s staff.

    • Michelle 13.2

      what do yo expect Ken key is cunt of the worst kind he is all about money not people

  14. tc 14

    What did you expect from a board with those characters on it. I’ll wager shonkys loving this.

  15. CHCOff 15

    There is abit of an anarchist element to ALL these strikes…which seems more like a continuation of the previous Govt’s policies in terms of societal cohesion.

    The short term gain collectives never really stick for what they are trying to represent.

  16. “It would be devastating to see the holiday plans of more than 40,000 hardworking Kiwis and international visitors ruined,”

    Hard working Kiwis , eh?

    Are Air New Zealand staff suddenly excluded from that descriptor when it suits?

    ‘Hard working Kiwi’s.

    To be used as a blunt , emotionally charged weapon and always used with broad brush strokes. Stated often by far right wing neo libs as a way to sound as if they are siding with workers , – and at the same time enabling them to demonize their targets ( usually another worker group ) . John Key and Bill English used it when it suited and in the same breath promptly labelled NZ workers as lazy , drug addled , shiftless types that justified importing tens of thousands of immigrants to provide cheap labour doing menial jobs under slave conditions. And who also provided the ChiNational party with votes from a large , gratefully servile group of new immigrants with the goal of becoming NZ residents.

    And undermining Trade Unions even further and passing legislation designed to push down wages and conditions.

    Whats in a word ? … or a worn out cliche ?

    Much.

    Perhaps we should start using the term ‘ Lazy , grossly over salaried , share holder cowering elitist corporate CEO’s ‘ to differentiate between ‘ hard working Kiwis’.

    Might be a bit of a mouthful , but in many cases very apt.

  17. Michelle 17

    Aren’t we short of engineers if this is the case we need to pay them accordingly when we have shortage of a profession this make them more valuable like housing supply and demand. As I mentioned earlier the company made a big profit and staff were given bonuses so why not pay the Engineers the increase they want and avert the strike. Lets make sure all kiwis have a lovely xmas. Times are hard and we all need to stick together and think of others less fortunate at this time of the year whether you believe in xmas or not its about whanau and friends and having a good rest after working for the year.

    • greywarshark 17.1

      You wouldn’t remember probably Michelle, but NZ got into trouble in the past by just reacting tand giving too much on union demand. The wages went up and up and so did inflation. Unions on the fwerries did this sort of thing last century. The people lost sympathy with them leading to the turncoats in Labour to choose the Treasury line and bring in neo lib economics and free markets which have ruined our country’s living standards.

      Just because they ask doesn’t mean that the firm must pay or they go on strike. That is blackmail. I am very sorry that the unions would bring the whole union system into disrepute with this sort of behaviour which shows no concern for the ordinary person. They are behaving like any arrogant company and we expect better consideration from workers, even when they have special skills.

      • Nic the NZer 17.1.1

        It seems to me this implication that, unpopular unionism is responible for the invasion of neoliberalism, is completely made up. Just for starters Roger Douglas politics and reforms were a surprise to the electorate and not something they demanded or a popular movement.

        Additionally at that time unionists like Knox were spectacularly unsuccessful at getting their way againt the prior National government.

        Is there any evidence you can provide to back up this claim? Say like a Douglas biography sub titled “I only did it all to screw over those unionists”.

  18. Ian Boag 18

    As I understand it, this group have had regular pay increases over the last 12 years. There is some story of this having been frozen at a time when the company was doing badly. Penal rates have always been there. So it is not surprising that the union might have thought this year would not be very different.

    I am told the union is asking for 3+3% and have been offered 2+2%. Hard to imagine that difference is not bridgeable. The extra leave and car parking stuff is just fluff.

    The company have obviously decided that this year is when double time gets the axe. The union think differently and it seems to be a die-in-the-ditch issue for both sides. If neither side blinks we get chaos. Dollar-wise I doubt that reducing the double-time hours to time-and-a-half would amount to a hill of beans for the company.

    Air NZ are nice people though – as soon as I heard about this I changed our 21/12 PMR-SYD flight to the 20th. It only cost me $450. I did ask about whether Air NZ might come to the party, but was told I should have called first. Apparently what I would have been told is “it will cost you $450” and “if the strike goes ahead Air NZ will contact affected pax and look to arrange another flight when they can”. Really ….. ?

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  • Trans-Tasman cooperation in a COVID-19 world
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