Two unions representing about 1,000 staff at Air New Zealand have upped the ante in their negotiations over new wages and conditions by serving notice they plan to strike for three days in the lead up to Christmas.
In the first week of December, some 95 per cent of the 970 members of the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and E tū voted to take industrial action on December 21.
The move to stop work came after negotiations between Air New Zealand and the unions were unable to come to an agreement on new wages and conditions.
Air New Zealand and the two unions, which represent workers across the airline’s line and hangar engineers, aircraft cleaners and other staff, were currently in mediation to try to resolve the dispute.
As the mediation enters a third day on Wednesday, E tū said it had now issued three full-day strike notices for 21, 22, and 23 December.
“The decision to issue strike notices was not taken lightly,” E tū head of aviation Savage said in a statement.
“While the bargaining team is trying hard to get a workable offer, the union members are steadfast in their commitment to taking industrial action if necessary.
“We will keep on talking about possible solutions.”
The union said it was “committed to this process and to reaching a deal that meets the interests of both our members and the travelling public”.
Air New Zealand said no flights have been cancelled or delayed for the the three-day period between December 21 and 23 at this stage.
“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,” Air New Zealand general manager for customer experience Anita Hawthorne said in a statement.
“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.”
Hawthorne said the airline was working on contingency plans to ensure flights continued to operate should strike action go ahead.
“Unfortunately some disruption would be inevitable though,” Hawthorne said.
Air New Zealand has said previously about 42,000 passengers are booked to travel domestically and internationally with the airline on December 21.
Further, it said the proposed strike action would not affect those booked to on turboprop-operated flights as these aircraft were maintained by a separate work group.
Air New Zealand said on December 7 unions had knocked back a proposal of an immediate two per cent pay increase followed by a further three per cent increase after 12 months, and rejected proposals to standardise overtime pay to 150 per cent of the regular pay rate.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand said the unions had also proposed aircraft maintenance engineers with five years’ service getting an additional week of annual leave, offering free reserved car parking within 500 meters of their workplace and the “right to renegotiate terms just prior to the busy Christmas season again next year”.