Air NZ pulls out of EMA - report

06:13, Jul 01 2011
EMA protest
LATE RUN: Protesters set up outside Trusts Stadium in Waitakere before realising that the EMA meeting there had finished earlier in the day.

Air New Zealand has terminated its membership to the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) following disparaging comments made by its chief executive Alasdair Thompson.

The EMA has been hit by angry feedback from its membership and others over Thompson's comments during a radio interview last week which suggested women take more sick leave because of their monthly periods.

The airline's membership came as part of being a corporate member of Business New Zealand's Major Companies Group. That was up for renewal today.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe made the announcement in a company newsletter.

"I have received a number of questions asking whether Air New Zealand is a member of the EMA following outrage at the CEO's public comments suggesting women are less productive and take more sick level because of their monthly periods," TVNZ reported.

"Air New Zealand was a member of the EMA, we terminated our membership this week," the newsletter said.

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The airline is understood to have already been reviewing the costs and benefits of its membership but Thomspon's comments finalised the company's decision.

Meanwhile, a protest earlier today by a group of women against pay equity comments made by Mr Thompson almost didn't go ahead because they arrived too late.

About 12 men and women from the Service and Food Workers Union planned a protest outside Henderson's Trust Stadium around midday to coincide with an EMA meeting but by the time they arrived the meeting had finished.

The group didn't let the mishap stop them from saying their piece though.

They lifted their signs and reassembled outside the EMA headquarters on Khyber Pass road.

Jill Ovens, who organised the protest, said they were tired of the controversy surrounding Thompson's remarks, and wanted to focus on ''the issue not the man''.

''Our picket signs say 'Pay Equity: It's about justice' and 'Pay Equity: It's about fairness', etc. It is not a lynch mob. It is a positive statement about equity for women workers.''

Mr Thompson has been under fire since June 23 when he made comments that the gender wage gap was due to women taking more sick leave than men. He cited their ''monthly sick problems'' as a reason why.

There have been calls for Mr Thompson to resign but the EMA have not made a decision.

The matter is further complicated by the fact the chief executive is on sick leave.

Association president Graham Mountfort says Thompson is ''not very well at all'' but he wouldn't comment on what that sickness entailed and whether it was related to stress.

The board of the country's biggest employers group met this week to discuss what action to take about Thompson, including whether to ask him to resign.

Mountfort says the next step in the process is to have Thompson and his lawyers respond to the board, something he has so far been unable to do because of his ill health.

Ovens said the issue is a collectivist one extending to careworkers, in particular, being paid worse because it is a job done predominantly by women.

Union member Jen Natoli said she expects more from a company that represents the views of businesses throughout New Zealand.

"It's also an issue with the EMA. They represent businesses and advise managers on how to treat their employees. As an organisation this represents a collective view that women can be paid less, and I don't think that's on."

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