The proposal to shift Air New Zealand’ s call center duties to software giant IBM (News - Alert) may face opposition from the airline’s Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).
The move, which means the transfer of the airline’s 80 strong temporary staff to IBM and which could affect the airline’s bookings, sales and general customer enquiry lines, is inviting criticism on the grounds that it may result in cuts to employees’ pay and conditions.
Yet, it is believed that the move would save the airline about $3 million a year.
“This is core Air New Zealand business, so it’s hard to see what the case for contracting out could be other than to cut costs. Our fear is that any cost savings from this proposal will be paid for out of our members’ pay packets. We’re also concerned that the company hasn’t come to us previously to look at cost savings and has instead looked to contracting out as the first solution.” said EPMU Assistant Director of Organizing, Strachan Crang, in a statement.
The union also expressed worry over the future of the rest of the employees adding, "No one at this stage can give us a guarantee that the remaining permanent positions will stay within Air New Zealand in the future."
As per the proposed plan, the staff handling domestic and short-haul inquiries will be moved to a call center in IBM's "New Zealand Delivery Center" that is being established at Auckland's Unitec Institute of Technology.
IBM has a similar setup at the University of Ballarat near Melbourne where students work at the delivery center as part of an "earn as you learn" program. The same practice may be followed here.
Air New Zealand says that the partnership will boost its contact center capability and enhance customers' experience. Officials commented, ”This would offer the benefit of a part-time workforce which can be called upon at short notice to ensure extra support is provided to customers and staff at times of high demand.".
The airline is currently in the consultation phase which involves 431 contact center staff in regards to the proposal that could come into effect beginning on March 31, 2013. February 22 is the quoted deadline for any additional feedback.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein