Air NZ to lock out check-in workers


AIR NEW ZEALAND plans to lock out 145 workers mainly at Auckland International Airport as a dispute over labour changes steps up.

The check-in staff and baggage handlers involved -- members of the Service and Food Workers Union -- have refused new terms and conditions, which they say will cost them up to $20,000 a year.

Staff would be locked out for five days from November 26 and baggage handlers for three days from December 4.

Air New Zealand general manager of international operations John Whittaker said passengers would not be materially affected.

About 1500 airport staff at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch international airports, most members of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, agreed to more flexible working conditions in April with the loss of 300 jobs.

Air New Zealand had threatened to outsource their jobs if they did not agree, in a bid to save $20 million a year.

The airline also threatened yesterday to lock out 178 retail and administration staff covered by the same SFWU collective agreement as the airport workers early next month unless they agreed to a new contract. Mediation was likely to take place in the next two weeks, Mr Whittaker said.

SFWU northern regional secretary Jill Ovens said the only way workers could avoid the lockout was to agree a three-year deal with big clawbacks.

Air New Zealand's demand included removal of shift allowances, overtime rates, and a new pay scale and roster.

She said the timing of the lockout notice was strange given that Air New Zealand was to present its case to the Employment Relations Authority on Wednesday on potential penalties of nearly $2.7 million for breaches of good faith in its dealings with the union.