E tū says that Air New Zealand’s effort to save money in an extreme response to the COVID-19 is doing irreparable damage to their workplace culture.
Air New Zealand’s latest response to the crisis includes shutting down the RML Nelson maintenance facility, refusing to bring back work currently being done in Singapore, and keeping workers and the public in the dark about worker exposure to the virus.
The proposal to close the Nelson maintenance facility, with the potential loss of up to 100 jobs, has been under consideration by Air New Zealand since mid-2019. They are using the COVID-19 situation to go ahead with a closure despite regional flying being the least affected of all their activities.
One affected member, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that they were devastated when they heard the news.
“I had to take any plans I had made for the next 10 years and throw them in the rubbish. I took a considerable pay cut moving here, just so I could be a part of this great community.
“It’s not just the employees this affects. It’s also the partners and children that will all be torn from this community. I bought a house here, met my partner here, and have become a part of this community. I planned on spending the rest of my days walking on the beaches and in the forests of this great place. Now, I will be forced to chase work in bigger cities.”
Another anonymous member says that it is a big blow to the Nelson community.
“RML was set up by Air New Zealand to provide a more effective model of maintaining turboprop aircraft, which contributed to lower maintenance costs overall for the company. The growth of RML from Air Nelson has seen over 100 jobs being established in Nelson.
“It was a surprise to me that Air New Zealand have seemed to take a 180 turn on the reasons RML was set up. I am left feeling like Air New Zealand are trying to transfer the impact the virus is having in Christchurch to RML. It feels like we are being asked to accept this proposal under duress, and that it really has not been thought through.”
Another member said the timing of the decision was unfair.
“This will have a devastating effect on me and my family because there is no prospect of finding other work in Nelson. It is being done with very little notice, in a time of lock down due to COVID-19. I feel it is totally unfair to make these moves and make people redundant while the company takes government support.”
E tū aviation negotiation specialist, Paul Graham, says E tū challenged Air New Zealand in mid-March to support the regions and resist the temptation to close down regional operations.
“We called for them to keep RML heavy maintenance in Nelson open. They have ignored this call. They are increasingly blind to the human costs of their financial decisions,” Paul says.
“Air New Zealand are losing the respect of their employees and losing their status as a desired employer. Their behaviour towards their employees is increasingly heavy-handed.
“Air New Zealand’s reputation as a great carrier and good employer is one of the main reasons for their success. It seems they are choosing to throw that all away to maintain their cash reserves while they slash and burn jobs. This is despite receiving the wage subsidy and a substantial loan from the Government.
“Kiwis don’t want our national carrier behaving so badly. Our message to the company: do the right thing.”
E tū Head of Aviation, Savage, added that the secrecy around COVID-19 infections in the Air New Zealand workforce demonstrated their new approach.
“Their brand is more important than safety at the moment. There’s no transparency, little accountability, and they are quickly losing the faith of staff and the wider community.”
For more info or comment:
Paul Graham, 027 204 6337
Savage, 027 590 0074