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Air NZ Crew Poverty-Stricken, Says Representative

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, March 25 NZPA - Air New Zealand flight attendants preparing to strike over wages are taking on work over and above their airline jobs just to stay above the poverty line, a representative says.

Attendants who are members of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), working for Air NZ subsidiary Zeal, are warning of strikes over Easter because of the situation.

Zeal in-flight service manager Kirsty Hamilton said staff were finding it hard to get by on trips away with work, and some were taking on extra work to try and stay afloat.

"We've got crew who go on trips away with work and can't afford to eat when they're at the hotel, so they don't, they wait until they get on board," she told Radio New Zealand.

Some were resorting to interest-only mortgages to free up money, and some of those taking on extra work were doing so after working shifts from 8pm to 8am, Ms Hamilton said.

Union representative Strachan Crang said 250 union members affected would begin industrial action on Saturday, with an initial step of non-compliance with uniform policy and refusal to do some paperwork.

From next Wednesday workers would be refusing to work standby, and the following Wednesday, April 8, they would begin full strike action.

The union claims the crew are paid tens of thousands of dollars a year less than crew who work directly for Air New Zealand, and that the airline was being tight on pay claims.

Air NZ has responded by saying the union's claims about the wages of staff have been significantly over-stated.

General manager Tasman Pacific Airline Glen Sowry said the union had rejected an offer which would have meant a new entrant Zeal flight attendant, working 30 hours a week and a nine-day fortnight, would earn $41,000 per annum.

"This income for a new recruit is 17 percent higher than the median wage for people working a full 40-hour week in New Zealand."

He said a January offer of 4.3 percent for 15 months, followed by 4.5 percent for the next 15 months, was rejected, as was a second offer increasing the first stage to 4.5 percent.

He said claims that attendants working for Air New Zealand directly were paid up to $30,000 more were wrong.

"They are making comparisons with long-haul cabin crew who earn a similar base salary but have higher allowances paid in foreign currency for them to live on while on international stopovers, which can be several days in duration.

"It simply costs more to buy a meal in Tokyo than it does in Auckland."

The wage difference for staff working on domestic flights was minimal, he said.

Ms Hamilton said Air NZ crew had negotiated a satisfactory pay rise in tough economic times, and those at Zeal wanted the same.

"We just want to be respected and appreciated and get recognition for the line of work we do, and this (strike action) is the last resort," she said.

Mr Sowry said contingency plans meant little disruption was expected over Easter. However, disruption in the days leading up to Easter would be more difficult to manage.

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