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Cullen washes his hands of Air NZ job losses

20 October 2005

Cullen washes his hands of Air NZ job losses

The Labour Government should step in as the major shareholder of one of the most important strategic assets in this country and take control of Air New Zealand before the privatisers wreck the company - as they did before.

The loss of 600 jobs is devastating for the workers and their families and a serious threat to our country's engineering skills base, the Alliance says.

Alliance President Jill Ovens says Michael Cullen's comment that this is "company business" is a disgrace.

"It is a matter of concern for all New Zealanders and should be top priority for this Labour Government."

The loss of the engineering jobs is completely unnecessary, the Alliance says. It is not about the engineering operation losing money. It is all about return on capital.

"This is about extracting more profit to ready Air New Zealand for another round of privatisation. The company chairman John Palmer is blatantly promoting a sell-down of the Government's shares," Ms Ovens says.

The projected savings from the job losses are only $20 million a year in a company that made a $250 million profit last year.

"The economics of the decision do not make sense unless it is connected to readying the company for privatisation all over again. It was a disaster for New Zealand last time and the Government had to step in. It will be a repeat disaster if the Government lets management get away with it."

Ms Ovens says if we listen to the workers themselves, we hear the company has made minimal attempts to get other contracts.

"The workers clearly blame management and they will be right. The workers should take a leaf out of the Argentinean's book and occupy the workshops to keep them going."

The Alliance compares the situation with the closure of the railway workshops in the early 1990s where there was irretrievable loss of skills and industrial capacity.

"So much for the high-skills, high-wage economy! The fact is we've become a Third World primary producing country with a fast disappearing industrial base. These highly skilled engineers will have to go off-shore to find jobs. It is a tragedy for us all."

ENDS


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