Air New Zealand (ANZ) has decided, after required consultation with its unions, to send heavy maintenance on its widebody engines overseas. In February it will decide whether to do the same with airframe maintenance.

Outsourcing the engine work on ANZ’s nine Boeing 767-300ERs, eight Boeing 747-400s, one Boeing 777-200ER, plus the Boeing 787s and 777s on order will result in an immediate loss of around 110 jobs, including some licensed engineers, but will save the airline an estimated NZ$53 million ($37 million) over five years. ANZ has not said where it will send the engine work, although it referred earlier to independent maintenance stations in Asia and Europe.

The airline deferred its decision on whether to outsource heavy airframe maintenance so it could evaluate union proposals to accept modified wage and work rules, including flexible shifts, to keep that work in-house. The airline’s savings target for the airframe work is NZ$48 million over five years.

Unions largely abandoned their effort to ask New Zealand’s government to intervene after cabinet members said they would leave the outsourcing decision to the airline, even though ANZ is majority government owned. Nonetheless, some politicians continue to argue that shutting down aircraft maintenance is not in New Zealand’s best interest.

Across the Tasman tempers are on edge as Qantas starts contract talks with unions representing its 6,900 engineering and maintenance staff. Both sides have followed the developments in New Zealand closely.

John Borghetti, the airline’s executive general manager, says that engine and airframe maintenance in China costs 20% less than in Australia. Qantas will “look at other options”, he warns, if in-house staff cannot meet that goal. Doug Cameron, national secretary for the maintenance union, replies that he will not make concessions under the threat of jobs going to China. Qantas contract talks with maintenance staff are due to end late in February. ■

Source: Airline Business