October 26, 2006
Joint Media Release
Workers footing the bill to fix airline’s faulty plans
Ill-planned proposals by Air New Zealand to contract out vast areas of work have already cost workers more than $500,000 in expert fees, says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.
National secretary Andrew Little said that in the past year the union had had to hire lawyers, accountants and management consultants – including Michael Stiassny of Ferrier Hodgson – to examine proposals to contract out heavy engineering and aircraft cleaning.
“In both cases those proposals were found woefully lacking, and we were able to save around half the engineering jobs and all the cleaning jobs,” he said, “but it involved the union doing the work that Air New Zealand managers had failed to do.”
Yesterday Mr Little used the company’s annual meeting in Auckland to ask its directors what sanctions they would take against management if the latest proposal – to outsource nearly 1700 ground services jobs – was also found wanting.
He said it was heartening to hear both chairman John Palmer and chief executive Rob Fyfe describe the retention of heavy engineering services in New Zealand as good for the company and the country, but there appeared to be little acknowledgment that it was the workers and their unions who had made it happen.
It was disappointing that once again workers were having to fight what appeared to be an ideologically driven plan to contract out work, Mr Little said.
Service and Food Workers’ Union northern regional secretary Jill Ovens, whose union represents 260 of the 1675 ground staff, said that workers were heartened by the support they received from shareholders at yesterday’s AGM.
“Airline workers spoke to shareholders outside the meeting and the vast majority were sympathetic and supportive, and some even raised questions inside the meeting,” she said.
“The ordinary shareholders understand that it is the people who work for Air New Zealand who make it what it is, and that there’s more to being a Kiwi airline than paying lip service to Kiwi culture,” she said.
“Air New Zealand is in the people business, and it needs good people working for it.”
Air New Zealand ground staff in Christchurch will hold mass meetings today to discuss the situation. Their Wellington colleagues met yesterday, and Auckland workers will hold meetings on Monday.