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New Zealand – Air New Zealand seeks to recruit foreign workers after mass layoffs

16 October 2013

New Zealand’s Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) is ‘absolutely stunned’ that Air New Zealand is applying to employ foreign aircraft engineers in the wake of more than 300 layoffs across the airline and its subsidiaries, reports stuff.co.nz.

The EPMU was asked to give feedback on Air New Zealand's application for Employer Accreditation by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Strachan Crang, EPMU Assistant Director of Organising, said: "Kiwi aircraft engineers are losing their jobs, and Air New Zealand has the gall to tell MBIE that they need to be able to fast-track immigration for overseas workers. We're absolutely stunned by Air New Zealand's actions."

"If Air New Zealand were to get this approval, it would create a mockery of the Employer Accreditation status programme. The accreditation process wasn't created so companies could sack workers one day and then bring in overseas workers the next," he added.

The Employer Accreditation scheme, run by Immigration New Zealand, is open to employers who are unable to find ‘suitably qualified and/or experienced’ New Zealand workers. One of the key requirements for accreditation is that an organisation shows ‘a commitment to training and employing New Zealand residents’.

The airline is applying to renew its accreditation status, which fast-tracks the process of employing foreigners, for a number of roles.

Air New Zealand said the specific roles for which it is seeking Employer Accreditation are highly specialised positions. "The specialist nature of these roles means they can be difficult to fill within the New Zealand employment market. The skills required are entirely different from the engineering roles referenced in the EPMU," the airline said.

The airline identified the specific roles as: university-qualified avionic engineers, design engineers, structures and interiors engineers, senior aeronautical engineers, software automation test engineers, quality and safety aeronautical engineers.

But the EPMU maintains two of the roles, aircraft engineers and avionics engineers, were the same as those from which the company this year made workers redundant.

Mr Crang stated: "They make these engineers redundant one day and the next they are applying to get foreigners in through the back door to do the same thing."

He also said that it was clear there were experienced Kiwi workers willing to work for the airline. "Some of their Christchurch workers, who are currently made redundant, have told me of their shock at the news. It is a huge slap in the face to them. Air New Zealand should do the right thing and offer work to Kiwi aircraft engineers who need jobs."

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