12 December 2007
No presents under the Christmas tree for Air NZ workers
Spare a thought for the check-in staff behind the Air NZ counters as you leave for your Christmas break.
Their part-time hours are so low, they can’t afford to put presents under the Christmas tree.
Service and Food Workers Union Northern Regional Secretary Jill Ovens says she is getting calls from members whose fortnightly pay was less than $500 and who are being forced to take voluntary severance to have enough money to get through Christmas.
“A member rang me yesterday who is a single mum with three children. She has been getting as few as 20 hours a week, which used to be the guaranteed minimum. Now there is no minimum and mums like her simply can’t earn enough money to buy presents for the kids.”
The SFWU conceded Air NZ’s so-called ‘in-house solution’ in the face of a two-week lockout just before Christmas.
“The fear of having to go without pay at this time of the year was overwhelming for our members who are on such low pay. There was no way they wanted to accept the new part-time, flexible rosters, but they had to weigh that against not having presents for their kids.”
A voluntary severance package for members who have been with the airline as long-term employees was negotiated as part of the deal. Many are jumping at the chance to take up the severance, even though they love the job.
Ms Ovens says members are lucky if they get 20 hours a week, which can be as few as 3 hours on a shift at all hours of the day and night.
“Not only do they have to try to balance family commitments with these unsociable hours, but they can’t earn enough to pay the bills, let alone cope with the extra spending that comes with Christmas.”
Ms Ovens says the problem is not confined to Air NZ workers. The lowest paid workers in the public hospitals are still waiting for their backpay after 18 months struggle for a national agreement in the DHBs and contracting companies.
“There is huge pressure to deliver settlements before Christmas so workers can have some backpay to get them through this expensive period. But employers don’t seem to care.”