Air NZ engineers row nearer resolution
A bid by Air New Zealand to restructure its engineering operations so its engineers can undertake all forms of aircraft maintenance looks closer to resolution after lengthy negotiation, mediation and Employment Court intervention.
The likely resolution would also resolve the threatened loss of more than 200 engineering jobs, including 180 jobs related to wide-bodied heavy maintenance work.
The jobs of 20 to 30 line maintenance workers in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, who do the day-to-day checking and servicing of aircraft as they fly around the country, are also at stake.
A written decision out yesterday by Chief Employment Court Judge Graeme Colgan relating to the line maintenance workers orders the parties back to mediation. The order confirmed an interim decision he made in June that the airline could not legally make all its engineers do line maintenance work.
In the early 1990s Air New Zealand restructured its aircraft engineering operations into different specialised work forces, each focused on particular aspects of engineering work.
These were covered by different agreements, labelled purple, blue and green, and involving two unions - the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) and Aviation and Marine Engineers Association (AMEA).
Air New Zealand now says that business model is inefficient. It wants to have a generic aircraft engineering workforce where employees can work on any type of aircraft maintenance.
Until now the 200 or so engineers covered by the purple book have exclusively done line maintenance. The heavier work has been done by the about 800 other engineers covered by the green or blue books (depending on their union).
In August last year the airline said it wanted 219 specialist line maintenance positions to be disestablished and the purple book to go, and about 186 generalist roles created. These roles would be covered by the other two agreements.
Then in August it also announced another 180 engineering jobs were likely to go in July next year as work had dried up for wide-bodied heavy maintenance work, because more airlines had upgraded their fleets to aircraft requiring less frequent maintenance.
The proposal to staff indicated the airline would save $12 million from outsourcing the remaining one year's worth of work to Europe or Asia in May next year once its heavy maintenance contract work for Hawaiian Airlines' 767 aircraft ran out.
But Air New Zealand has said it will keep that work in-house only if the two unions agree to roll over their current collective contracts until 2015.
The union hopes to get the outsourcing decision overturned to buy it time to come up with alternative work for the Auckland engineers, including bringing in different types of long-haul aircraft for maintenance.
It is understood the EPMU has ratified the proposal but the AMEA has come back with a counter-proposal.
- © Fairfax NZ News