Air New Zealand is cutting its Auckland maintenance staff because there simply isn't enough work for them, the company says.
The airline plans to shed 180 positions from its maintenance facility servicing larger aircraft and wants the workers gone by the middle of next year. A final decision will be made in October.
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) says staff are devastated. Its members were told on Thursday that jobs may go working at a heavy maintenance base which hat services large, wide-body jets.
Airline chief operations officer Bruce Parton told Checkpoint it is investing in newer, more modern aircraft that need less servicing and, because of this, the airline does not need as many maintenance workers.
The high New Zealand dollar cannot be blamed for the planned layoffs, he says.
But EPMU spokesman Strachan Crang said the high dollar had affected the ability of the facility to compete despite the best efforts of the workers.
"Over the past three years, they've delivered productivity gains in the double figures but this has all been eaten away by the high value of the New Zealand dollar," he said.
Labour blames government policy
The Labour Party says the country needs to retain the almost 200 aircraft engineers who stand to lose their jobs.
Labour finance spokesperson David Parker says government economic policy is partly to blame.
He says a high dollar has stopped Air New Zealand getting replacement maintenance contracts for those it has lost.