August 8, 2002
It could be Qantas or bust, says union
Cultural cringe over the possibility of Australians buying into Air New Zealand could ultimately destroy our airline, says the union that represents nearly 3000 Air New Zealand workers.
The EPMU is calling for an end to the campaign against Qantas buying into Air New Zealand.
“We’ve heard enough from the romantic capitalists on this,” said national secretary Andrew Little, “it’s time for some economic realism.”
The hard economic fact was that New Zealand could not sustain two domestic airlines, and if a deal wasn’t done with Qantas that airline could eventually destroy the New Zealand carrier, he said.
“There is not sustainable competition in New Zealand now and there wasn’t for the whole time Ansett and Qantas New Zealand were flying,” he said. “The New Zealand aviation market just isn’t big enough to sustain two major providers.”
Qantas was currently losing about $40 million a year offering domestic services in New Zealand, and was prepared to sustain that at the moment for a presence in the market, he said.
“But when it wants to grow that market, the gloves will come off and it will be an entirely different game. Air New Zealand is not in a position to take on a multi-billion-dollar company like Qantas.”
Qantas had a turnover three to four times that of Air New Zealand and had an incredibly strong position in the Australian share market, Mr Little said.
“Compare that with Air New Zealand, which has had to be bailed-out by the New Zealand taxpayers after some disastrous business decisions and is still in an very fragile state.
“In these circumstances, it’s better to have a complementary relationship with an airline like Qantas.
“We have to get over this thing that Australians are evil bastards to be avoided at all costs,” he said. “This is not the Bledisloe Cup.”
Concerns about the possibility of a lack of competition pushing prices up could be dealt with through the Commerce Commission and regulation, he said.
Mr Little said that it was all very well for the “romantic capitalists” to wax lyrical about a New Zealand airline, but it would be workers who would pay the ultimate price if that airline went under.
“We’ve already seen what happens when an airline collapses,” he said. “Our members carry the scars from the collapse of Qantas New Zealand last year. We are not going to sit by and watch that happen again.”