13 Dec 2018

Air NZ engineers' strike called off: 'Nothing really about it has been particularly clear'

10:51 am on 13 December 2018

Air New Zealand and the unions representing the company's engineers have reached an agreement, lifting the strike notice that threatened to disrupt travel for 120,000 customers in the lead up to Christmas.

Auckland Airport

Strike notices were withdrawn late Wednesday evening. Photo: 123RF

Engineers and logistics workers threatened the industrial action on 21,22 and 23 December in the dispute over pay and conditions.

After three days of mediation the strikes were called off at 10pm on Wednesday.

Neither the airline nor the two aviation unions would discuss the details of the deal, which still has to be signed off by union members.

But E tū union representative, Savage, said it had achieved most of what it was asking for.

"Industrial action of this nature is always a last resort and so it's a positive sign that we've reached an agreement in principle," Savage said.

"While the process has been tense at times, it is a much improved offer from where we started and maintains standards in aviation."

Savage told Morning Report while the strike notice has been withdrawn, union members still need to vote on the deal.

The union will recommend the offer to its members, Savage said.

And a ratification meeting will be held in the next week.

"Yes, of course pay was central to it, but a big part of this ... was about the company, at a time of record profits, attempting to cut those terms and conditions.

"They live to get those planes out on time, so for them to take this decision it meant that there were some serious stakes there," he said.

"Things got to this point, we have some quite good legislation in New Zealand that says in an essential industry, unions need to give 14 days notice, we gave those 14 days notice, the process happened, we went into mediated talk and we were able to reach an agreement, a good ten days or so out.

"I think that's a success story."

However Consumer NZ's Sue Chetwin told Morning Report the threat of a three-day strike just days out from Christmas has been a confusing and difficult time for travellers.

Ms Chetwin said the strike notices weren't clear enough, with the initial reports only indicating a one-day strike.

She said if customers have already changed or cancelled flight plans to avoid the strike action, it's unlikely they'll be able to switch back.

The National Party's employment spokesperson Scott Simpson told Morning Report the new government has a political debt to the trade union that they are trying to pay off.

"Essentially by giving permission to trade unions to exercise their muscle in a way that we haven't seen."

He said there has been more strike activity in the last 12 months than in any of the same time period in the last 30 years.

"The only thing that's changed has been the government."

Air New Zealand Chief Ground Operations Officer Carrie Hurihanganui said the airline has been very focused on achieving resolution on behalf of its customers who could now be reassured their Christmas holiday travel plans are secure.

"We know how important it is to our customers to get where they need to be, particularly at this special time of the year and the negotiating teams have been working diligently to achieve this result."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed yesterday she had been in contact with the parties, urging them to resolve the dispute.