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14/12/2018 — Economics, Politics and Government
Dispute rather than airlines grounded
By Dene Mackenzie

Christmas travellers will be breathing a sigh of relief after Air New Zealand engineers called of their three-day strike which was scheduled to start on December 21.

The engineers were in a powerful negotiating condition as hundreds of thousands of travellers – both domestically and internationally – were likely to have their flights grounded.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the media on Wednesday she had contacted both the unions and Air New Zealand management urging them to come to some agreement.

And they did, about 12 hours later.

Ardern is not getting any credit for what could have been some tough talking behind the scenes.

The interesting details of the deal will become apparent once members of all unions involved in the now settled dispute emerge.

The workers had an average salary of $150,000 a year and some earned $170,000. And while there was some sympathy for these workers having to work through the Christmas period to keep planes safe, the overwhelming public opinion was “greedy buggers”.

The workers had already turned down a 2% rise with a review. Air NZ makes large profits and pays large bonuses to staff. There will be much interest in how much it had to pay to ensure the negotiations were settled in time for Christmas.

The Labour-led Coalition Government has been bedevilled by strikes and teachers are next on the list. After failing to squeeze any more money out of the Government this year, a combined action between all teacher unions will cause chaos.

One of the jokes on social media this week is: If airline engineers can go on strike during the holidays, why can’t teachers?

The Government is tying itself in knots over many issues, including Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones being likened to Pablo Escobar “el Chapo” for touring the regions dispensing largesse.

Getting the Air NZ strike settled before Christmas should give the Government some breathing room before the mid-year of the three-year term.

The Government will need to go for broke in its spending next year to ensure it has a strong base from which to build into the 2020 election.

*Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin political commentator.

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