Time for Fyfe to go

Written By: - Date published: 11:53 pm, March 30th, 2009 - 26 comments
Categories: activism, workers' rights - Tags: ,

It’s time for Bill English, as shareholding minister in Air New Zealand, to tell the AirNZ board that either they fire CEO Robert Fyfe or he will fire them.

Yesterday, Fyfe directly attacked two government policies.

First, he threatened to cancel flights if air traffic controllers take their meal breaks at the statutorily guaranteed times. That’s an attack on the right to meal breaks, which National voted for just last year.

Next, it has emerged AirNZ is trying to hire strikebreakers to stymie a strike by flight attendants employed by an AirNZ subsidiary Zeal who just want to be paid as much as flight attendants working on the same flights who are employed directly by AirNZ. That goes against repeated statements from government ministers that they support workers’ right to organise and won’t be attacking unions.

It’s not on for a company that is majority-owned by the government to carry on attacking workers’ rights like this.

Key won’t like it. He’s mates with Fyfe and has already come out on his side against the workers. English will have to decide whether pissing off Key is worth it to stand by National’s stated policies.

[Update: The flight attendants are calling for members of the public to send in as many job applications as possible to flood Air NZ’s email system.]

26 comments on “Time for Fyfe to go”

  1. gingercrush 1

    Are you serious?

  2. Nick 2

    What reactionary rubbish. You sound like the Nats, calling for sackings. Suggest you go back and look more carefully at what AirNZ is saying. If you live in Gisbourne or Rotorua or another provincial town or city then you might see their point. In any event, Fyfe is a good guy who has a solid reputation with his workers. Before slagging him off with banal unionist trumpetings, I suggest you find out more about him.

    • Tigger 2.1

      Nick and Tom M, which workers are you talking to? None of the people I know in Air NZ (quite a few), nor those working in supporting industries (even more), rate Fyfe at all.

      My sources tell me, as TomSe points out, he carries grudges, back-stabs, bullies (while playing the victim) and take credit for the work of others. Not quite the shining CE you guys have painted.

  3. Tom M 3

    This is way beyond reason – Fyfe is one of the most highly respected and best performing CEO’s in the country. Firing him would harm Air New Zealand substantially, and calling for it only shows that you know little of what you’re talking about.

  4. “Tom M
    Fyfe is one of the most highly respected and best performing CEO’s in the country.”

    He sure as hell isn’t acting like it at the moment.

    Hopefully he with push things a bit to hard, cause a number of strikes ect (any one else here the rabid old man (Koru club no less!) complaining last night that the workers dared to wear stickers on their uniforms in protest, you’d think they were ramming it down his throat or something.

    Somewhat hilariously he then blamed them for his bags not coming off first as they are ment to for koru club members, silly man, they are not air nz stuff doing the bags, employed by the airport.

    • And what I actually ment to write there was:

      Hopefully he with push things a bit to hard, cause a number of strikes ect

      So that next election Labour can run on a “get in there and sort them out” platform to reinforce and remind people of their workers rights credentials.

  5. TomSe 5

    Fyfe has a reputation as a man who carries grudges (witness his ongoing and childish fued with Auckland Airport) and believes that if you are not with him, you are against him. Eventually, such attitudes WILL catch up with him.

  6. gingercrush 6

    Seems so long ago when the left were in love with Fyfe for criticising National’s tax policies. Though in seriousness. If you want to see him sack. How do you do that without him taking it to employment court and getting some huge payout. Which is what you would get. I agree with you that Labour would handle it differently and would expect answers. But in no way would they be in a position to sack him.

  7. Shona 7

    This is the genius manager who tried to destroy the aircraft engineering and maintenance arm of Air NZ by ceasing to fly into Singapore more than 3 or4 times a week in and instead flying to Shanghai and other locations in China so he could use poorly trained slave labour in China to maintain Air NZ ‘s aircraft. The same Chinese maintenance crews who regularly returned aircraft to Qantas with an average of 93 tasks incomplete on each aircraft and managed to blot Qantas’s accident free record with their incompetence.The same idiot who turned down the golden egg offer from Singapore airlines to go into partnership with NZ getting all their maintenance contracts. The guy is a first rate dickhead!

  8. Lanthanide 8

    I’m sorry but I have to completely disagree about the meal break situation.

    Everything I have read suggests that these traffic controllers have always previously enjoyed their statutory 10 minute and 30 minute breaks, the difference now is that some bozo has applied a weird reading of the new law and believes that they must be strictly scheduled to a roster, rather than taking them when it is convenient for everyone involved.

    What makes more sense? Suddenly changing the way business is done, literally overnight, at the expense of 25 air flights per week (think about all the pilots, cabin crew, bag handling, airport staff etc who would lose work hours or even jobs), or continue with the status quo of organising breaks as appropriate so that no one misses out and everyone wins? It seems to me that if the air traffic controllers had a problem with their breaks not being strictly rostered, they would have complained long ago about the situation.

    I used to work at the Warehouse for 4 years, 2 1/2 as a supervisor, and we always endeavoured to give people their breaks on time (the Warehouse gave people 15 minute breaks instead of the legally required 10, also), but business demands simply made this impracticable to get everyone on their breaks exactly on time 100% of the time. Occasionally some people got a bit grumpy, particularly if their breaks were 30+ minutes late, but this rarely happened (at least on my watch), and everyone understood that it was simply a result of the trading environment that we worked in.

    There comes a time when you have to be pragmatic and realise that yes, in an ideal world staffing levels would be sufficient so that no closure of the towers were required, and everyone could also have strictly rostered breaks. However this is the world we are in, and so we should deal with it, rather than pining for the fjords for some better reality that does not (and due to business reasons, likely will never) exist.

    • Brucie 8.1

      Sorry buddy you’re not even in the same industry -aviation. Said you work in a store enviro.
      S’pose your staff were doing something even slighly risky it would probably be a guaranteed rest.

      I speak first hand pal, people in these jobs get breaks when they can. That is because schedules cost big money and they have a sometimes misplaced interest in the travelling public. I suppose public includes you friend.

      PS Does being a wrong on a fact make you a business specialst?

  9. Interestingly, Andrew Little has so far escaped the conflict of interest tag. It’s lucky for him Labour are in opposition but it’s nonetheless going to be an issue that he will need to address.

  10. Bill 10


    You can’t have planes flying with no air traffic controllers. Cancelling flights is therfore a H&S necessity. What is it that the air traffic controllers are trying to leverage? ( I assume they are utilising loose or ambiguous wording in their Agreements to take their breaks simultaneously. Why?)

    On the second point, AirNZ will get fined for each and every person employed to do the work of the striking workers. I’d guess a cost analysis was done on this and AirNZ concluded it was cost effective to flout the law.

    Beyond that. When were workers ever generally afforded respect by bosses? It’s why we organise.

    I don’t like Fyffe’s attitude, but can’t see the grounds for him being fired. He’s there to make money. Period. Of course he’s an arsehole. But can you imagine if workers were legitimately fired just ’cause the boss considered them to be arseholes?

    • DeeDub 10.1

      “But can you imagine if workers were legitimately fired just ’cause the boss considered them to be arseholes?”

      Can I draw your attention to a little thing called the ‘fire at will bill’, Bill? Could easily happen to new workers anywhere.

      • Bill 10.1.1

        Fair point DeeDub. Don’t know how that slipped my mind.

        You get my general point though.

        Adding to my previous comment, having looked through the differentials in allowances, I guess the cost analysis takes into account how much money the company makes through breaking the union completely.

        So the bastards will take short term hits in looking to secure extraordinary long term gains.

        Thing is. I can’t readily think of an example off the top of my head where a major company has embarked on union busting and failed.

  11. cocamc 11

    I think you’ll find the Government cannot sack the Board of AirNZ. It is still a listed company and board members are appointed and re-appointed at the AGM.
    This isn’t a SOE, so get the facts straight

    • Bill 11.1

      So you stack an AGM how? Do the appointments require the approval of shareholders? If so, how many shares does a person require to hold to attend, to have a voice/ a vote?

  12. Nick 12

    Thanks, Lanthanide, for injecting some sense into this thread. Seems some of the comments here are more keen on vitriol than common sense and facts.


    Of course, management, including Fyfe, had been wrestling with what to do about engineering for months. “It was just a freak of timing that it happened on my watch. I was the quy who said, ‘Unless we fix it, this business is stuffed.’ But it created an impression.”

    “I went out to the hangers and walked up to this aircraft and within half a minute was surrounded by about 30 guys. I got, “You’re putting my job at risk, I’ve done a lot for this company,’ and finger-pointing in my face. I had to respond forcefully as to why we were doing what we were doing.”

    Andrew Little, secretary fo the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which eventually came up with a labour-reform deal that saved engienering and 300 of the threatened jobs, says Fyfe earned respect for fronting up.

    “The first real engagements I had with Rob were difficult, but I always appreciated his openess and frankness. There was no sense that you’d go to a meeting and hear one thing and in the next conversation with a senior manager things had changed.”

    For a company notorious for tense industrial relations, much of Fyfe’s watch has been relatively harmonious.

    “The other thing I admire about him,” says Little, “is that very early in his tenure he took on two big issues – the engineering and airport services restructurings – and stayed. … Rob has not only stayed to see it work out, but been actively engaged in fronting up to Air New Zealand staff.”

    Air New Zealand staff have far better access to their CEO than usual, says Andrew Little. Fyfe answers all his emails personally, and his well-publicised habit of spending a day every month working alongside cleaning crews and baggage handlers is more than threare – “He listens and takes action.”


    (North and South, April 2009)

  13. cocamc 13

    Just have to read the Air NZ constitution to work that out, all comes back to Director Nominations and the AGM process

  14. justthefacts 14

    I totally support Rob Fyfe, show me the picket line and I will gladly cross it.

  15. ben 15

    First, he threatened to cancel flights if air traffic controllers take their meal breaks at the statutorily guaranteed times. That’s an attack on the right to meal breaks, which National voted for just last year.

    Utter bollocks. Nobody is arguing there should not be breaks. Its an attack on unions who demand rigidity whatever the cost. Having staff take breaks at specified times means planes have to circle until controllers are done with their chicken salad. Needlessly unhelpful and a complete waste of resources.

  16. Observer 16

    “he threatened to cancel flights if air traffic controllers take their meal breaks at the statutorily guaranteed times”

    HOW was this a threat? You can’t fly a plane with no Air Traffic Control, it’s bloody dangerous. In this instance, Air New Zealand’s CEO is saying he will do exactly what should be done to ensure passenger safety.

    “who just want to be paid as much as flight attendants working on the same flights who are employed directly by AirNZ”

    There are NO flight attendants on the same flight employed by anyone other than Zeal 320, which was the company formed to employ flight attendants for Freedom Air which operated all the A320s now operated by AirNZ. They are demanding equal terms and conditions with cabin staff who operate AirNZ’s long-haul flights, which have different stresses and requirements because of their time in the air.
    A typical Trans Tasman duty day has two flights, one each way, with an hour in between, the cabin staff serve their passengers for circa seven hours in that day. A typical long-haul flight is 13 hours long and the crew go out one day and back the next, meaning they have to be away from home for at least one night. Different work, different pay rates.

    AND, for the record, Rob Fyfe is the first AirNZ CEO in a very long time whose undergraduate degree was directly related to the airline business, and who has hands-on experience of aircraft operations (well prior to working foir AirNZ). AS has been said earlier ? find out about the man before you start acting like a red queen. (Off with his head!)

    • Bill 16.1

      You might want to go here, http://www.epmu.org.nz/assets/Aviation/Zeal-320-Ltd-FAQ.pdf check your facts and then revise your assertions.

      The difference between Zeal and NZ direct employed domestic flight attendants is astounding. Note. That’s Domestic…..not International.

    • Daveo 16.2

      Observer: The Zeal A320 staff fly many of the same routes as flight attendants employed directly by Air NZ. They’re paid tens of thousands of dollars a year less.

      Get your facts straight mate.

  17. James Woodcock 17

    I was saddened to learn that, given the current situation in which Air NZ’s 250 “Zeal 320′ flight attendants find themselves, Rob Fyfe was rewarded with a 93% pay increase during a successful 2007/08 financial year. As their contract has remained un-changed since 2006, should the Air NZ “Zeal 320′ flight attendants not be entitled to a cut of the spoils? Air NZ’s accusations that these flight attendants are “greedy’ when asking for an increase of up to 26%, that would only bring them in line with their “Air NZ’ counterparts, seems both discriminatory and unfounded. Given the current melt down in the global economy should the Air NZ “Zeal 320′ flight attendants not share in the success that Rob Fyfe has enjoyed for the 2007/08 financial year

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