Category: Aviation

“Struggling” Airbus engineers stand tall for better pay to protect industry

Aircraft engineers who work for Airbus, servicing New Zealand military aircraft, are continuing their strike action in an effort to secure decent wages now and for future aircraft workers.

More than 100 engineers working for the company out of Woodbourne in Marlborough and Ohakea in the Manawatū have been on strike for around six weeks, and last week filed notices for another two-week strike period.

Members’ ask is simple: a pay rise to keep up with inflation.

Their strike has meant not travelling to other work sites away from Woodbourne and Ohakea, no shift work, overtime, or doing work that’s outside their job description or that changes their current work patterns.

Alongside servicing civilian aircraft, the bulk of the work Airbus engineers do is for the country’s air and defence forces.

An E tū member, who does not wish to be named, says members feel their wages are falling behind with the rising cost of living, with many of the company’s engineers struggling to get by on what they earn.

“A lot of younger people with mortgages are really starting to hurt, on top of groceries, power, and other things. The pay rise we’re asking for is just so that we can afford to live.”

The strike action is also about addressing the attrition in the industry – where it was once seen as being highly skilled and highly paid, new workers are not coming into replace those who are retiring, they say.

“A lot of these guys are highly skilled with years of training and experience, and they not being valued.

“Airbus doesn’t seem to worry as they leave, but there’s not an endless supply of aircraft engineers. So, while this strike is about being able to afford to pay the bills, it’s also about retaining and attracting future workers.”

Their pay also needs to take into account the huge level of responsibility and stress that goes with the job, they say.

“There’s enormous pressure on you to ensure everything is done absolutely right, every time – to the point you could end up in court, or people may die as a result of mistakes.”

Another E tū member, also anonymous, says they’ve heard of members who are working second jobs to get by, and their partners as well.

“The guys with families are facing horrendous expenses, and those on single incomes are struggling too. I know of one who is having to sell off assets to make ends meet.

“The main thing that’s really driven this strike action is the company’s blatant disregard for its workers. It talks about people being its greatest asset, yet it’s not willing to reduce profit returns to shareholders to fund a pay increase, while its workers struggle.”

E tū Aviation Organiser Damon Rongotaua says New Zealand needs to recognise the value of its aircraft technicians and pay them accordingly if it wants to maintain a viable aviation industry.

“The engineers at Airbus are a vital part of our national defence and civil aviation infrastructure, as well as part of the Marlborough economy.

Depending on the type of maintenance work they are doing, engineers at Airbus can be paid significantly less per hour than engineers at other aviation companies doing the same type of work, Damon says.

“Members are driven and determined to improve pay for workers both now and in the future. From Aotearoa, they are leading the charge in terms of taking industrial action against Airbus.”


For more information and comment:
Damon Rongotaua, 027 591 0010

Air New Zealand trainers set to strike over stalled pay negotiations

E tū cabin crew leaders, who fly on 787s and who are responsible for inflight crew training, have issued strike notices to Air New Zealand, in frustration and increasing anger at faltering wage talks as part of a new collective agreement.

The strike would put a ban on regulatory in-flight training of existing and returning crew, taking effect from 22 March.  

It won’t affect the travelling public, but, if it goes ahead, it will mean delays in training crew.

Members want to send a strong message to Air New Zealand that it needs to come to an agreement on paying decent wages to its workers.

On behalf of the striking aviation trainers, Sandie Bartlett, a member of the E tū negotiating team, says the decision to strike is never taken lightly, but members have run out of other options.

“We’ve been in bargaining for more than two years, and the company has so far refused to recognise that the wages for experienced cabin crew returning from redundancy are too low.

“Their start rate is only just above Minimum Wage, when crew want to see it starting from at least the Living Wage.”

The member says Air New Zealand’s focus on ultra-long-range trips to North America means the company wants crew to fly for up to 19 hours, and up to 22 hours in the case of a disruption to the scheduled flight times.

However, the crew want a fair wage to do so and clearer rules on fatigue management.

“We need reassurances our wages will go up and that our rosters won’t increase the existing fatigue problems all crew face.”

E tū’s head of aviation, Savage, who is also the advocate for the agreement, says the collective agreement for the group has been in negotiation since the end of 2019.

“Before the pandemic pay rates were so low, members were heading toward full strike action.

“However, in terms of workers’ pay, the situation still hasn’t changed. There has been no increase in the start rate since October 2018,” he says.

“We recognise that Air New Zealand is in debt and needs to trade its way back to profitability, but it also needs skilled staff. Crew can’t survive on these low rates.

“We don’t believe the company will be able to retain experienced and trained crew with the amount it has offered so far.”

Savage says at this stage cabin crew have chosen to limit their strike to the in-flight training component of their jobs to avoid major disruption to passengers.

However, there’s no doubt that a decent pay increase must be on the cards for members to consider a resolution – something that the company’s baggage handlers have already won, now their starting rates are up to almost the Living Wage.

“Cabin crew are responsible for safe operations in the air and go through extensive training to develop the experience and expertise needed to do their jobs,” Savage says.

“As essential workers, this group has also made significant sacrifices both personally and professionally to ensure that New Zealanders have had access to air travel during the pandemic.

“It’s only fair that they are provided with decent jobs with pay rates which reflect that and the high level of personal commitment they bring to their work.”


For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

Appointment of veteran unionist to Air NZ board “positive sign”

E tū, the largest union in Aotearoa New Zealand for aviation workers, welcomes Air New Zealand’s move to include a union voice in their latest round of board appointments.

The airline has appointed three new directors to its board, including veteran unionist Paul Goulter, who is currently the national secretary of New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and has many years of experience in commercial and union leadership roles, including as a director of the Co-operative Bank.

E tū head of aviation, Savage, says the addition of a union voice to the airline’s board is a positive sign.

“It signals to us that Air New Zealand is looking to rebuild better as the aviation industry slowly recovers.

“Two-thirds of its employees are union members, so collective agreements are central to the company’s success,” Savage says.

“The airline cannot function without ongoing engagement with its unionised employees.”

Savage says Paul’s appointment will build on the work that fellow unionist Ross Wilson did in his role as an advisor to the board up until now.

“There’s no doubt that the many redundancies and how they were handled have strained the company’s relationship with members during the past year.

“However, E tū members have collectively told the company they want to have a say in the airline’s rebuild.

“They want to see a commitment from the company to being a better employer and creating decent jobs.”


For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

E tū supports International Cabin Crew Day today

E tū is the biggest aviation union in Aotearoa New Zealand and we are proud to stand with the the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) on International Cabin Crew Day.

The aviation industry has been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis. From massive job losses to significant health hazards, cabin crew across the globe are doing it tough. E tū supports the ITF’s priorities for 2021:

Vaccination priority – prioritises cabin crew to receive vaccines as they are front line workers and vaccination is essential for the restart of the industry. E tū is pleased that in Aotearoa New Zealand, we have made great progress here. We support other unions to achieve the same.

Recertification – Training during the pandemic has shifted from normal operations. This has affected confidence in cabin crew returning to work and dealing with high risk situations on boards. Cabin crew need to go back to permanent roles via safe, hands-on, training and standards.

Disruptive passengers – Crew are faced with an increase in disruptive passenger incidents due to the ongoing pandemic and procedures on board – the Montreal Protocol 2014, which was designed to ensure proper prosecution of disruptive passengers, remains unsigned by many countries. This protocol serves as a crucial tool to ensure offenders are correctly prosecuted and do not have an opportunity to re-offend. All countries should sign up to the protocol.

Mental health – Mental health of aviation workers has been severely affected by COVID 19 and the decimation of the industry. Mental health needs to be a priority going forward in the formation of well-being protocols, critical responses programs and return to normal operations incentives. The pandemic has shown us all the importance of focusing on well-being and mental health.

Saliva testing “major advance” for aviation and border workers­­

E tū aviation and border workers are looking forward to the Government’s rollout of saliva testing, which will reduce the frequency of tests done via nasal swab.

The option of saliva testing for COVID-19 for border workers will start from June, with high-risk workers prioritised first.

It means this group of workers who are subject to compulsory testing will only need to have a nasopharyngeal test every 14 days, instead of every seven days.

Saliva tests will be done around every three days in between compulsory nasal swabs.

E tū delegate and international cabin crew member Tony Quayle says he’s “heartened” to hear about the rollout of saliva testing.

“This will be a major advance on what we’ve got at the moment – anything that’s less invasive will be good.

“There are concerns for cabin crew having to get nasal swabs so often – at home and overseas – and about the long-term effects of that. The body isn’t designed to have things going up your nose all the time and repeated trauma to this area is something to consider.”

Tony says many cabin crew members have also felt “traumatised” by overseas testing – previously via a throat swab, but now a nasal swab – which is compulsory in several destinations.

“In Shanghai, for example, they require the nasal swabs to be done in both nostrils. When you’re having that done, combined with compulsory testing back home, it makes you really concerned about the whole process,” he says.

“Even though most of us have been vaccinated, our worlds have become quite uncomfortable with the restrictions and things we are doing to keep people safe. In that sense, the introduction of saliva testing is big bonus.”

E tū’s head of aviation, Savage, says the announcement is positive news for anyone who has to undergo regular tests – particularly international cabin crew.

“Cabin crew who fly internationally are currently subject to a test via nasal swab in New Zealand every seven days.

“The new saliva tests will mean they’re now able to push this out to every fortnight, with the saliva tests acting as a supplementary test in between.”

Enduring a regular test every seven days, combined with testing requirements at certain destinations, has been an intrusive and uncomfortable procedure for cabin crew and other E tū members, Savage says.

“It’s a routine they have endured for the good of all Kiwis and to keep each other, their families, and their communities safe.

“To be able to lessen that imposition on crew, and eventually other border workers, is an incredibly positive step,” he says.

Savage says a “very high percentage” of those who work at the border are now fully vaccinated or on their way to being fully vaccinated.

“High vaccination rates mean the risk of infection is lower, but workers are also less likely to show symptoms if they do become unwell – frequent saliva testing can help in this regard.”


For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

Union calls on Air New Zealand to rebuild better

E tū is calling on the country’s national carrier to ensure it rebuilds better than before, after the half-year announcement of a profit loss of $185 million, before other significant items and taxation.

E tū Head of Aviation, Savage, says the announcement comes as no surprise, but the issue now is whether the airline can balance its need to generate profits with its commitment to putting people before profits.

“The pandemic has focused attention on how vital Air New Zealand is to New Zealand’s economy – not just as part of our national infrastructure connecting the regions and to global markets, but also in terms of the standards Air New Zealand has itself set in industrial relations.”

Air New Zealand is a large, high profile employer that had turned a corner in the last five years, and committed to doing far better by its staff, he says.

E tū members represent a third of the workforce at Air New Zealand.

Savage says it is a hard time to be an airline worker.

“The company is rightfully scrutinising every cost increase, but workers still have bills to pay, housing costs continue to rise, and there are still people at Air New Zealand who earn below the Living Wage.

“Rebuilding a better airline that can serve the national needs and becoming a better employer is the challenge now.”

However, the company has made recent strategic statements that indicate its priorities in terms of people coming before profit, and that is the standard the company will be judged by, Savage says.

“Flying more passengers and cargo and vital to rebuilding, but the CEO and his management team will also need to keep supporting and recognising the thousands of workers who have kept the company going through all the tribulations of the last 12 months.”


For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074

E tū welcomes vaccine arrival

The expected early arrival of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first vaccine shipment is welcome news to E tū, the union representing many border and health workers.

The Government announced this morning that the first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine should be rolled out from next week and will be delivered to border and MIQ workers and their close contacts as a priority.

E tū Assistant National Secretary Annie Newman says it is great news.

“This is a very important milestone for our COVID-19 response and takes us a step closer to getting this virus under control,” Annie says.

“It’s entirely appropriate that people working at the border and in MIQ will be vaccinated first, as they have the most risk of exposure.”

Annie says it is vital that workers are not disadvantaged by the vaccine roll-out.

“This means that workers need to be properly paid throughout the process. If they need time off work for the vaccination, that must be fully paid. If any part of the process prohibits them from working for a period, that time off should also be paid and not require workers to use up their leave.

“These basics will need to be followed for the whole roll-out, not just this first batch. As our healthcare workers and others begin getting vaccinated, all Kiwi workers deserve financial security for doing that which is in all of our best interests.

“E tū members across many industries have kept Aotearoa safe and thriving through the pandemic. Health workers, aviation workers, cleaners, security guards, food workers, and many more have shown exactly how essential they are. 

“The best way to thank these workers for their outstanding service is to make sure they are always properly paid for the work they do and any sacrifices they have to make.”

Annie also stressed the importance of following official advice and relying on the best information from the Ministry of Health.

“E tū members are encouraged to learn about the vaccine and why it’s so important in our fight against the pandemic. Excellent information is available on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 vaccine page.

“With proper protections, and good information, Aotearoa can once again show the world how it’s done.”


For more information and comment:
Annie Newman, 027 204 6340

Remembering the Air New Zealand Erebus crew and passengers with memorial service

E tū, the union for aviation workers, invites all Kiwis to join in the remembrance of the crew and passengers in Air New Zealand’s Erebus disaster by observing one-minute’s silence on Saturday.

On 28 November, as there is every year, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony and one-minute silence observed at 1.49pm to remember the crew of Air New Zealand TE901 who died 41 years ago on the slopes of Mt Erebus in Antarctica.

The one-minute silence marks the moment of impact, which occurred at 12.49pm NZST (1.49pm NZ Daylight Saving Time). Twenty crew members and 237 passengers lost their lives in the tragedy.

E tū Organiser Dayna Townsend says the day marks an event that is forever etched into the memory of New Zealanders.

“Today marks a day when our national airline, the nation, and the families of those aboard, suffered a great tragedy.

“The crew memorial gardens near Auckland Airport in Māngere are a focal point for remembrance, and the event is particularly poignant this year, as we consider the upheaval and thousands of job losses for aviation workers as a result of the pandemic.”

On the same day, E tū also remembers the five Kiwi aviation workers who died in 2008, when their Air New Zealand A320 crashed off the coast of Perpignan, France.

Labour MP Marja Lubeck, a former flight attendant, union president, and E tū Head of Aviation, will be attending on behalf of the Government.

Where: Auckland Airport Crew Memorial, Tom Pearce Drive, Māngere

Time: 1.30pm


For more information and comment:
Dayna Townsend, 027 590 0070

Executive share offers will further damage airline’s recovery, union says

Aviation union members are “incensed” after hearing the news that a multi-million-dollar share offer has been given to Air New Zealand’s CEO, including offers to the executive team.

On Friday, the New Zealand stock exchange showed CEO Greg Foran issued with rights to around $2.03 million worth of shares.

Six other members of the executive team were also issued rights of a lower value, including former executive Cam Wallace.

With around 4000 of the airline’s workers having already lost their jobs and hundreds of 787 crew set to be made redundant before Christmas, workers have described the airline’s actions as “tone-deaf”.

“I’ve never seen crew so upset as they were over the weekend. It’s just another kick while they’re already down as crew numbers are being decimated,” says one worker.

“This flies in the face of Air New Zealand’s internal programme around rebuilding, which is about supporting from within and looking after staff in order to look after the customer. This is not looking after staff.”

Some crew have found themselves relying on benefits as their incomes have dropped, the worker says.

Another airport worker who prefers to remain anonymous says, “People are losing their jobs. This is completely insensitive.”

E tū Head of Aviation Savage says union members are foregoing pay increases and not collecting contractual performance bonuses to help the airline save money.

“For the board and the executives to take the share options at this time will do nothing to rebuild the airline’s performance. Workers are incensed – it’s rubbing salt into an already painful wound,” he says.

“The announcement will further reinforce the view of union members that the company’s strategy needs a complete overhaul.”

Savage says the union will be taking up the issue of the share offers with Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

“Air New Zealand has drawn down on their government loan and it seems this public money is now being spent on lining the pockets of the senior management.

“The distribution of pay to staff needs to be fair, and the airline needs to retain and create decent jobs. Our national carrier should be something all Kiwis can be proud of, starting with looking after all its employees.”

For more information and comment:
Savage, 027 590 0074