Mt Cook strike to end after jobs threatened
Workers at Mt Cook Airlines in Queenstown have agreed to return to work in the face of threats that they would lose their jobs.
“They were told that if the dispute wasn’t settled by last night, they could all be out of work,” said Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little.
Fifty-five baggage handlers and ticketers walked off the job on September 20 in support of a five per cent pay rise, saying that they could not afford to live in Queenstown on their current wages.
Mr Little said that union negotiators were told yesterday that if the dispute was not settled by the end of the day, Air New Zealand would cancel Mt Cook Airlines’ contract to provide baggage handling and ticketing services to airlines using Queenstown airport. Mt Cook Airlines is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Air New Zealand.
“The situation was a farce because Air New Zealand owns Mt Cook Airlines,” he said.
“What really happened was that these workers were bullied into accepting a low pay settlement. Air New Zealand managers were directly involved in the negotiations, and this is old-fashioned 1990s-style corporate manipulation of the workforce.”
The deal accepted by the workers is for a 30-month agreement, and includes a 3.5 per cent pay rise this year, another 3.5 per cent rise next year, and a 1.75 per cent rise in the final six months. They might also earn another $700 each a year in the first two years of the agreement through a productivity agreement.
Mr Little said that the settlement was higher than the company had been offering (a three-year deal with 3.25 per cent rises in each of the first two years, and a 3.5 per cent rise in the third year), but the company’s strong-arm tactics had left its workforce feeling bitter and resentful.
“These people are hard-working New Zealanders struggling to raise their families in one of the most expensive places in New Zealand,” he said.
“With this action, Mt Cook Airlines and its parent company, Air New Zealand, have done enormous damage to their relationships with their staff.”
The workers will return to work tomorrow (Sunday).
Meanwhile, union lawyers are investigating the company’s actions during the strike, including the use of strike-breakers and whether Mt Cook Airlines and Air New Zealand had acted in good faith.