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Air New Zealand has lashed out at the EPMU after the union announced this afternoon that 240 Zeal flight attendants would launch a four-day strike from May 7.
EPMU national secretary Andrew Little says the decision to strike was “not taken lightly” by members, and says the system used to employ the Zeal flight attendants is “an unethical use of corporate legal structures to deprive these workers of decent conditions”.
But Air New Zealand has returned fire at Mr Little with some pointed words over his handling over the negotiations.
“Zeal management have repeatedly told the EPMU they are ready to return to mediation whenever Andrew Little makes himself available again, however there has been nothing but silence,” says Air New Zealand Group General Manager Short Haul Airlines Bruce Parton.
“Air New Zealand is quickly running out of patience with a union that clearly doesn’t want to make progress and is happy to see its members lose further income while they are on strike.”
The strike notice puts in jeopardy pay increases worth thousands of dollars for the Zeal crew, claims the airline.
“Why the EPMU would walk away from such an offer in the current economic environment defies belief. I’m not sure which universe they’re living in, but it’s not the same one as everyone else,” says Mr Parton.
“Zeal offered a very good pay increase at a time when Air New Zealand is trying to do everything it can to avoid redundancies like we have seen at Qantas, who will be axing an additional 1750 jobs on top of the 1500 already announced –equating to approximately 10% of their workforce.”
He gives an ominous warning to the striking staff, saying “Air New Zealand is quickly being driven towards finding other means of crewing its A320 fleet in future”.
Market analysis from Air New Zealand shows Zeal flight attendants already earn more than their equivalents working for competitors across the Tasman: “That is the pay-parity reality EPMU needs to understand,” says Mr Parton.
“Trying to claim they should be paid the same as long-haul cabin crew who are logically given higher allowances to pay for items in foreign currency while on multi-day layovers in the likes of the USA and Japan is ridiculous.”
Mr Little says, “This is a matter of basic fairness. We’ll continue to negotiate with the company in good faith until we get an agreement.”
Today’s strike notice is the latest in a long, disruptive saga for the airline.
Originally a four-day strike was scheduled for Easter weekend, but that was cancelled due to legal advice to the EPMU over the wording over the strike notice.
Despite this, Zeal staff, who work on Air New Zealand’s Airbus 320 aircraft covering Pacific and Trans-Tasman routes, continued with industrial action including not wearing correct uniform, which caused one flight to be grounded.
The latest strike will take place during Mother’s Day weekend.