Air New Zealand, its engineer workers and their unions will be wanting to avoid a three day strike planned for the lead up to Christmas, an industrial relations expert says.
Air New Zealand is in its third day of negotiations with unions Aviation and Marine Engineers Association (AMEA) and E tū to try resolve an employment dispute relating to Air New Zealand aircraft maintenance and logistics workers.
The unions have served two sets of strike notices covering December 21, 22 and 23, three of the busiest days of the year for travel.
University of Otago professor Alan Geare said the unions would have chosen to strike on these days to inflict maximum damage to the airline.
“From the engineers point of view they need to threaten to strike when it will really hurt,” Geare said.
“If you are using strikes as a negotiating tool they have to be effective.”
The unions and engineer workers would be wanting to avoid industrial action, because if a strike did go ahead they would lose public sympathy, he said.
Similarly Air New Zealand would not want the strike to go ahead because it would paint them as an unreasonable employer who was not able to reach a negotiating deal, he said.
“It’s possible that both parties know exactly what’s going on and they are playing a game of who blinks first.”
Even the Government would no be wanting the strike to go ahead because it would reflect badly on the coalition partners, he said.
“There will be an awful lot of ill-feeling if the strike goes ahead.”
It was possible the negotiating parties had painted themselves into a corner, wanting to move towards an agreement, but not wanting to “lose face”, he said.
“My personal hope is that this is a brinkmanship game and neither party expects or wants there to be a strike over Christmas.”
If the strike did go ahead it would be the fault of both parties, not just the union, he said.
“Both parties are involved in the strike even though one party calls it.”
Geare said he wanted to be clear he had no inside information of the situation.
Workers involved in the industrial dispute are seeking more than a 3 per cent pay increase offered by the airline, as well as better overtime pay, more annual leave and free carparks, the airline said.
The airline said the group had received pay increases annually for the past 12 years.
The AMEA said the pay offer was unfair at a time when the airline was making substantial profits.
The airline said the average income of the maintenance engineers, logistics and other staff to strike was $115,000 and about 170 of them earn more than $150,000.
Chief executive Christopher Luxon, meanwhile, earned more than $4 million in the year to June 30.
Air New Zealand general manager customer experience Anita Hawthorne said the airline would do all it could to get customers where they needed to be at Christmas.
“We know customers are very concerned about their travel plans at this important time of the year and unfortunately we are not in a position to provide certainty at this time,” Hawthorne said.
“We would like to reassure customers that we remain committed to mediation with unions and we are still hopeful of reaching a resolution which sees strike action averted.”
It was working on contingency plans to keep flights operating but if strike action went ahead some disruption would be inevitable.
At this stage no flight delays or cancellations were in place for the days of the proposed strikes and normal fare conditions remained.