Air NZ Warns Unions to Agree or It Will Outsource 1,700 Jobs,

THE outlook for 1700 Air New Zealand workers remained grim yesterday after the airline again warned it would outsource their jobs unless all unions representing them agreed to concessions.

The Kiwi carrier has been at loggerheads with the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union and the Service and Food Workers Union over threats to outsource airport services to Spanish company Swissport.

The unions have been told the 1675 customer service and loading staff will be outsourced to Swissport, at a saving of $NZ20 million ($17.5 million) a year, unless workers agree to significant changes to their terms and conditions.

The parties have so far been unable to broker an agreement that would allow the work at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch airports to remain in-house. The airline said yesterday that discussions with the EPMU were continuing but the SFWU had said it would not pursue talks.

Air NZ group general manager, people, Vanessa Stoddart said yesterday that unless the membership of all unions ratified a common solution the outsourcing would proceed.

''The conflicting union positions create a difficult situation,'' she said.

''One union may get support from its members for a satisfactory in-house solution, while the other doesn't support it.

''Naturally we can't have one group of Air New Zealanders on incompatible terms and conditions to the others, so we would be left with no option but to outsource.''

Air NZ's ground handling staff are covered by collective agreements that are in force until June 30 but the airline has been pressuring unions since last May to make concessions. The airline denies that the move to outsourcing will lead to a drop in skill levels and says Swissport is committed to taking as many Air New Zealand staff as possible into its workforce.

But the SFWU said a recent survey of members at Auckland International Airport showed that more than half would not transfer to Swissport if outsourcing proceeded.

''This is because they are not prepared to work at all hours of the night and weekends without penalty rates and on a lower hourly rate,'' union official Jill Ovens said.

Ms Stoddart said outsourcing airport ground handling services was nothing new for Air New Zealand.

''We outsource the work at many of our regional New Zealand airports, at all our Australian airports and at other key offshore locations such as Los Angeles and London,'' she said.

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