July 27, 2011

The truth about Air Pacific's bad faith negotiations with TWU (Fiji)

Thanks to fellow blog, C4.5, the reality of the atrocious underhanded dealings of the CEO of "Air Treason",  Dave Pflieger, must be exposed.

Fiji Transport Workers Union responds to Dave Pflieger's Media statements
This is in response to the various media articles whereby the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Air Pacific has made unfounded and untrue claims on the several issues relating to their dealings with Transport Workers Union (TWU). Let me clear the air on many of these issues.

Airline offers way out (Fiji Times 16th July 2011)

We have many a times informed the employer of our commitment to help the airline in whatever way possible. We remain committed to a review of the existing collective agreements. There are three collective agreements that exist between the company and TWU. The parties have chosen to review the collective agreement affecting flight attendants as this is the more complex one of the three. The review process will convene on the other two collective agreements affecting the ground staff as soon as the collective agreement affecting flight attendants is completed.

In the Fiji times front page article Mr. Pflieger lied that the complete contract proposals were given to the Union some two months ago. The truth is that the company's complete proposals were given to TWU on Tuesday 19th July 2011 during a meeting held at the Air Pacific Training Centre at 3pm.

This meeting was attended by the company's Human Resource Consultant (an American), their staff attorney, TWU Vice-President and myself. The proposals that the company claims were given some two months ago were incomplete and those who have the slightest knowledge of negotiations would agree with me that negotiations cannot be held on piece meal basis based on incomplete proposals. If the company's claim that they have been trying to negotiate for five months is anything to go by then it has taken the company five months to give to TWU their complete proposals. So why blame us.

The company's proposal contains clauses clawing back on existing conditions of employment. It includes massive reductions and withdrawal of the many benefits contained in the existing collective agreement that our members currently work with and were negotiated over many years.

Some of these are:
• Removal of several definitions from the collective agreement and including them in their own manuals. This will enable the company to make changes as they wish without having to deal with the Union.
• Removal of overtime pay
• Removal of long service leave
• Reduction of annual leave entitlements
• Reduction of sick leave entitlements
• Removal of cosmetics allowances
•. Removal of winter clothing allowances
• Removal of the right of appeal and right of representation in disciplinary cases.
• Restrictions on right of entry at work places.

There are media reports that the winter and cosmetics allowances are outdated and should be replaced with profit share. The company flies to and expects the flight attendants to stay for a few days in places where there is winter with extremely cool temperatures. Because of extreme coolness in these places appropriate winter clothing protection are required. The company's own policy stipulates that flight attendants should appear to be in a presentable manner, be good looking and for which appropriate cosmetics are required to be worn. To replace these with profit share is ill conceived. Infact the profit share that the company has proposed will be approved by the Board of Directors. Neither the employees nor the Union will have any say in this. Where is the rationale.

The company proposal contains a clause on double occupancy for flight attendants at layover ports.

This is not found in any collective agreements in the world and has been proposed with no regard to family and social consequences. The company's proposal contains many clauses that will significantly reduce the role of the Unions. These can not be allowed as workers have rights, a right to belong to the Union and rights to collectively bargain.

The employer is saying for us to agree to their entire proposal and in return there will not be job losses. This is just irrationale and sounds more like a demand. Dictatorship has no place in civil society.

The company has also said that they are looking at substantial cost savings through the review process. Despite our repeated requests the amount of cost savings is not being provided to us. Why?
Recruitment of Expatriates
Again in the Fiji Times of 16th July 2011 page 22 Mr. Pflieger lies about the number of expatriates the company currently has. He claims there is only one. The truth is apart from that one expatriate, the several consultants and lawyers the company has an expatriate as Airport Manager Nadi who replaced a local, Manager E-Commerce, Chief Commercial Officer who has taken over from a local General Manager Sales and Marketing and an Executive General Manager Operations and Services.
He replaces another expatriate who replaced a local. So you can see there is more than one expatriate and they together with the consultants stay in up market accommodations at Denarau and drive around in posh vehicles. They all enjoy a posh life here.

The Voluntary Separation Programme
The company notified us that it was overstaffed. We suggested that the way to handle this was through natural attrition, freeze on recruitment and a voluntary separation programme. The voluntary separation programme was introduced and a good number of employees applied.
While the company approved for these employees to leave are now in the process of recruiting replacements for most of the positions. We do not see the rationale in reducing employees on one hand and replacing them on the other. This has come at a cost. The company is yet to respond to our request on how many employees it wants to lay off and by which departments. Our information is that they do not have such a number.

We have advised the company that job losses affects people, their families, the community they live in and the country at large. It affects the fabrics of the Fijian society as how will they be able to provide for food, shelter, education, etc to our people. We just can't compare ourselves with countries like America. America has a huge job market and social security for the unemployed.

We have raised several concerns on the level of expenditure incurred by Mr. Pflieger himself, the expatriates and consultants. These can be avoided.

This Union has offered several ways in which there could be cost savings. We rejected the offer by the company to meet at hotel venues and insisted in meetings in the company's premises to save costs. We agreed to a 3 months 10% pay reduction in 2009. Similar offers have been rejected by the current management. In early 1980's workers gave away one week pay. Since August 2006 workers have not received any pay increases. Workers are prepared to make more sacrifices to help a company we claim as ours. We can not give away our terms, conditions of employment and benefits for good.

We ask for Dave Pflieger and Samisoni Pereti to come clean on issues and not hide behind lies. We further ask for good faith to prevail as we embark on rescuing our company. We are not interested in their personal lifes.
Kamlesh Kumar
General Secretary
21st July 2011

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