April 20, 2002
A year ago tomorrow, hundreds of people arrived for work at Qantas New Zealand to find that the gates were locked, the receivers were in and their jobs were gone.
They are still fighting to get $27 million owed to them.
The Government has promised to change the law to make it more likely for workers to get at least some of the money they are owed when their employer collapses, but so far it hasn’t happened.
The union that represents many of the former Qantas workers, the EPMU, is calling on the government to change the legislation urgently.
“Sadly, company collapses are a fact of life,” said national secretary Andrew Little.
“No matter how good your redundancy agreement is, you have no safety when the company collapses. The Qantas New Zealand people are still waiting for the liquidation process to draw to a close, and all they can expect is a meagre proportion of what they are owed.
“The Government announced changes to legislation that would give greater protection, but there’s no indication that they will be passed in the near future. We want them passed before the election at the end of the year.”
The changes proposed by the Government included giving workers a higher priority when liquidators are distributing funds.
“It would be naïve to think that there will not be any more company collapses in New Zealand,” Mr Little said. “This legislation must be passed before any more workers are caught.”
Qantas workers are holding informal get-togethers this weekend to mark the anniversary. Many have found jobs – with Air New Zealand, with Qantas Australia and outside the aviation industry.
However, their sense of grief and anger at the demise of an airline many had worked for since it started has not gone away.