An industrial dispute between Air New Zealand and its engineering staff started off badly – with unions threatening to strike on December 21 - and yesterday became worse with the workers raising the stakes by expanding the work ban to three days.
The proposed strike dates now go from December 21 to December 23, or December 20, 21 and 22 in the Cook Islands.
Those are the airline’s three busiest days of the year with tens of thousands of people flying to be with friends and family for Christmas.
Air NZ and the unions are continuing negotiations to end the dispute, which centres on what the E tu union says is an erosion of conditions and pay levels. Those affected include line and hangar engineers, as well as store workers and aircraft cleaners.
The airline has accused the engineers of deliberately using families’ Christmas holidays as a bargaining chip for more pay.
AirNZ’s general manager for customer experience Anita Hawthorne says the airline will do all it can to get customers where they need to be this Christmas.
“We know customers are very concerned about their travel plans at this important time of the year and, unfortunately, we are not in a position to provide certainty at this time.
“We would like to reassure customers that we remain committed to mediation with unions and we are still hopeful of reaching a resolution which sees strike action averted.
“We are working on contingency plans to keep our flights moving the best we can if, as a worst-case scenario, strike action should go ahead - unfortunately some disruption would be inevitable though.”
Meanwhile in the Cook Islands, Air Rarotonga is also having a busy holiday period with 175 flights scheduled for the outer islands.
Chief executive Ewan Smith says that involves 2390 passengers as well as cargo.
The breakdown of flights is 74 to Aitutaki, 46 to Mangaia, 23 to Mauke, 21 to Atiu and 11 to Mitiaro.