Ex-union boss to advise ANZ board amid lay offs

written by Adam Thorn | April 8, 2020
Airbus A320 Air New Zealand A320 in Sydney (Rob Finlayson)

Air New Zealand has appointed one of the country’s most high-profile former union leaders to advise its board as it prepares for the exit of 3,500 employees.

Former Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Ross Wilson will provide an independent workforce perspective, the business says, as it downsizes and rebuilds following the coronavirus crisis. Recent speculation suggests 400 pilots will be among those made redundant.

The airline has also announced the board appointments of ex-global Avis chief executive Larry De Shon and Freightways managing director Dean Bracewell from 20 April.

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Wilson has almost three decades of experience representing union groups, including as CTU president and vice president, as well as two decades with rail and maritime workers.

One of his first tasks may be negotiating with nearly 400 pilots set to be made redundant, if claims by the New Zealand Air Line Pilots’ Association (NZALPA) are true.

The layoffs come after Air New Zealand revealed last month it would cut its domestic services by 95 per cent from pre-coronavirus levels, operating just 43 return flights per week.

Meanwhile, Larry De Shon was responsible for 11 brands and more than US$9 billion in revenue when he retired from Avis Budget Group following a 28-year career with United Airlines, where his responsibilities included airport operations, marketing and on-board service.

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Air New Zealand chairman Dame Therese Walsh said, “Larry is well familiar with New Zealand from his time leading Avis Budget Group globally and has a keen sense of the opportunities ahead for Air New Zealand both domestically and internationally.

“His deep experience in growing a global business in the wake of the GFC is also timely given the phase Air New Zealand will go through rebuilding post COVID-19.”

Finally,  Bracewell is currently a director of Tainui Group Holdings, Property for Industry Limited and the Halberg Foundation. He is also a member of the New Zealand fovernment’s Future of Rail Steering Group.

“Dean is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded business leaders and intimately understands what it takes for a company to succeed in a tough and competitive environment,” said Dame Therese.

The pair fill the vacancy left by Sir John Key, who retired as a director last month, and as part of succession planning for when deputy chairman Jan Dawson steps down in September.

On Tuesday, Australian Aviation reported that Air New Zealand had appointed a new head of HR as well as contracted employment relations consultant Paul Diver to oversee the company staff restructure.

Chief executive Greg Foran said, “Joe is no stranger to the type of large scale, rapid workplace change that Air New Zealand has ahead in the wake of COVID-19. He will be a key member of the team to rebuild our airline.”

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