24 Aug 2013

Airline industry fears laid-off workers will head overseas

2:24 pm on 24 August 2013

The Aviation Industry Association says it may be difficult to keep Air New Zealand maintenance staff in New Zealand when they lose their jobs with the airline.

Air New Zealand wants to shed 180 positions from its maintenance facility by the middle of next year because it says it is investing in newer, more modern aircraft that need less servicing.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union and the Labour Party say the high dollar has stopped Air New Zealand from finding replacement work after contracts were lost.

The Aviation Industry Association says the high dollar makes the New Zealand service expensive to overseas customers.

Chief executive Irene King says it will be difficult to keep the workers in the country because they are paid very low wages compared with other countries in the region.

However, Air New Zealand and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says the dollar cannot be blamed for the potential job losses, which are to do with the airline investing in new planes.

Mr Joyce says there is a shortage of engineers in the country and the Air New Zealand staff who lose their jobs will be highly sought after.

Trade recruitment agency Allied Work Force says the country cannot afford to lose the engineers.

Chief executive Mike Huddleston says it would be a disaster if the engineers left and there was a resulting skills shortage.

He says there are engineering jobs currently available but he doesn't know whether they are appropriate for aircraft engineers.

The airline is expected to make a final decision on the 180 positions in October.