Two unions representing about 1,000 staff at Air New Zealand have voted to commence strike action in the lead up to Christmas.
Some 95 per cent of the 970 members of the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association and E tu voted to commence industrial action from December 21 at meetings held earlier this week in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, E tu said in a statement on Friday.
The strike follows negotiations between Air New Zealand and unions being unable to come to an agreement on new wages and conditions.
While the strike action is set to begin four days before Christmas, E tu and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association have agreed to enter mediation with the airline in an effort to resolve the dispute.
The two unions cover workers across Air New Zealand’s line and hangar engineers, aircraft cleaners and other staff.
“No one wants to disrupt people’s Christmas plans, but Air New Zealand has taken an unnecessarily aggressive approach,” E tu said in a statement.
“This is not just about pay. It’s about repeated proposals by the airline weeks out from Christmas to pay them less than colleagues who have already settled, and to cut into key conditions, including overtime rates.
“Our members feel under-appreciated and under attack. The ballot results show an overwhelming resolve to take action to defend themselves.”
Air New Zealand said in a statement there are about 42,000 passengers booked to travel domestically and internationally with the airline on December 21.
Further, it said any strike action would not affect those booked to travel on turboprop-operated flights as these aircraft were maintained by a separate work group
“We have only been in negotiations with this group for six weeks so industrial action is entirely premature,” Air New Zealand general manager for aircraft maintenance Viv de Beus said in a statement.
“We remain committed to working closely with the engineers’ unions to reach a reasonable agreement and avoid strike action if at all possible.”
Air New Zealand said 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”.