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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Air NZ unions sell conditons for jobs

Rather than confront the Government, the EPMU (Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) and the AMEA (Aviation and Marine Engineers Association) unions have turned to an anti-union accounting firm to come up with a cost-saving scheme at the expense of workers conditions to save only half of the more than 600 jobs that Air NZ plans to slash with the shut-down of its heavy engineering aircraft repair workshops.
Michael Stiassny and Brendon Gibson of the accountancy firm Ferrier Hodgson have produced a plan that will mean, according to the NZ Herald, "far-reaching changes in work conditions" in the hope that enough money can be saved to convince the company to save 300 engineers’ jobs.
Stiassny said it was "phenomenal", an "amazing surprise", to see "how far the delegates and members have moved on labour reform." It is "unusual", he crowed, "to see a union make those ... deliverables". He said that because it is so unusual for a union to make such big concessions Air NZ should take advantage of the situation.
Andrew Little, the national secretary of the EPMU, said the accountants’ plan was "a viable alternative" but in selling workers’ conditions in return for an unenforceable undertaking that some jobs will be saved, Little and the unions are playing right into the company’s hands.
Only a few days before the presentation of the union concessions to Air NZ, the company said that even a 25 per cent cut in labour costs would not be enough to save their jobs. In fact Air NZ said only across the board concessions from all 2100 engineering workers could see some of the heavy engineering jobs saved. Chris Nassenstein, Air NZ’s engineering services general manager, said that even changes in shift patterns, removal of penal rates and an "hours bank" to manage the work load would not be cheaper than outsourcing off-shore.
The unions have buckled under to the blackmail of the company which is cynically using the threat of a complete closure of the repair workshops to extract ‘voluntary’ concessions from the workers. Even with the cuts proposed by Stiassny and Gibson proposal, over 300 jobs will go. The workers that remain will have to take a major wage-cut and yet still be expected to do the same or more work.
The company that Stiassny and Gibson work for is known as a "corporate undertaker", having dealt with several high profile company receiverships. In one, a so-called "phoenix" scheme in 1998, a stevedoring company went into receivership and then arose from its own ashes under a new name. This was done to cheat wharfies, who had been made redundant, out of their holiday and redundancy pay. The wharfies, through the liquidator, successfully sued Ferrier Gibson for nearly $2 million.
To think such a company would act in the interests of Air NZ engineers as Andrew Little obviously does is, at the very least, the height of naivety.
Instead of making concessions, the unions should be waging a campaign to force the government, which owns 82 per cent of Air NZ, to take full control of the airline and ensure the engineering repair facilities are kept open.
Threats of closure should be met with an Argentinean-style occupation of the repair workshops. Privatisation of transport has been a disaster for New Zealand as has been seen with the fiasco’s dogging the railways and bus companies. An integrated, planned transport system is only possible through public ownership and democratic control.
The loss of our country’s heavy aircraft repair capacity would be a major blow to our strategically important transport infrastructure. The Labour-led government should act in the interests of the people who elected it and protect the 600 jobs at risk while ensuring New Zealand continues to have a viable national airline.


Comrade_Tweek said...

Hi Len

I've posted the Alliance release on my blog. Hope you don't mind. Go the Left!

Len Richards said...

Go for it comrade. Victory or death! Or as the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata said:
"Es mejor morir de pie que vivir arrodillado". (It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees.)