Air NZ strike will 'effectively ground the fleet' - union

Drive 08/12/2018
Photo: Getty.

Air New Zealand's busiest time of the year may be smacked with a worker strike, potentially affecting the flights of thousands of travellers.

Union workers informed the airline that a "total strike" will be in the cards on December 21 if negotiations don't go well on Monday.

Almost a thousand employees, including hundreds of engineers and logistics workers, will participate in the planned strike.

"It will effectively ground the fleet without those engineers… The airline will have to take quite extreme measures," said Savage, E tū’s head of aviation.

Savage told RadioLIVE that the airline has taken an "unnecessarily aggressive approach" in pay, conditions, and overtime rate negotiations.

He says the airline offered many union workers less than what they offered to another group of engineers, essentially "low-balling" them.

"We're not going to accept cutbacks. We're not going to clawbacks on our pay and conditions just before Christmas," Savage said.

Air NZ general manager aircraft maintenance Viv de Beus says it appears the engineers are deliberately using Kiwi families' much anticipated Christmas holidays as a bargaining chip.

The airline warns that if the strike goes ahead, the plans of more than 40,000 people flying domestically and internationally will be at risk.

Despite potential backlash over cancelled Christmas flights, Savage told RadioLIVE that 90 percent of the union agreed to go ahead with strike action.  

When Leah Panapa points out that some union member's salaries are over $150,000, Savage says those workers still deserve fair pay considering their skills and conditions. 

"The important thing to these are very highly skilled engineers. They work shift work all through the night fixing planes… It's really important that they're paid well."

Air NZ will communicate with travellers closer to the travel date if the workers go ahead with their strike action.

Listen to the full interview with Savage above.

Drive with Leah Panapa, in for Ryan Bridge, 3pm - 6pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.