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SFWU Groundstaff Negotiations Update

9 November 2007
SFWU Groundstaff Negotiations Update

Air New Zealand has issued lockout notices to the SFWU over bargaining for a new Collective Employment Agreement. The notices affect approximately 145 of Air New Zealand's 3300 groundstaff, predominantly at Auckland International Airport and Cargo.

"This is a very serious step and is clearly not a decision we have made lightly," says Air New Zealand General Manager Operations - International Airline John Whittaker.

"Air New Zealand looks to avoid industrial action wherever possible. However, this situation has become untenable, because SFWU members, representing fewer than 6% of our Airports staff, believe they are entitled to superior terms and conditions than the 94% of staff on individual or other union contracts. We don't believe there are any valid reasons for preferring them over other Air New Zealanders."

The lockout means that employees are not entitled to work and will not be paid for the period it is in place, which is initially November 26-30 for Airports and December 4-6 for Airports and Cargo.

Mr Whittaker says the need for resolution has become critical in the Airports environment, where an in-house solution agreed earlier this year made the business viable and protected jobs.

"Twelve months ago our Airports business was in crisis. We have been working hard to rebuild and create a sustainable and competitive business. Our efforts are now being jeopardised by the unwillingness of the SFWU to conclude a viable agreement."

Mr Whittaker says Air New Zealand has measures in place to ensure that its operations, primarily at Auckland International Airport, will not be materially affected by the lockout action.

Meantime, Mr Whittaker says the SFWU also represents 119 retail staff in areas like call centres and Air New Zealand Holiday stores and a further 59 in Financial Shared Services. These staff are covered by the same collective contract agreement as their fellow members in airports. Air New Zealand will move to lock them out early next month unless an agreement is reached in the meantime.

"We need to bring some real focus to the negotiations so they do not become protracted," says Mr Whittaker.

Air New Zealand will schedule mediation in the hope of avoiding the lockouts. This is likely to take place in Auckland within a fortnight.

Mr Whittaker says Air New Zealand has had to make a number of strategic and difficult changes across key areas of the business such as Tech Ops, Corporate functions and Airports over the past three years. These have been necessary to ensure that the business continues to grow and that it is able to compete with stiff domestic and international competition.

ENDS

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