Although common sense and cooperation are rare in government-union interactions, those characteristics have resolved the peculiar New Zealand work rule, reported here on April 7, which would have resulted in the closure of control towers at five airports while controllers ate, twice each day. As the April 1 imposition of the rules became imminent, negotiators struggled to devise a compromise that complied with the law but kept the towers open without disruptions.
Government officials and the air traffic controllers reached a deal whereby the controllers will eat during scheduled meal breaks unless traffic requires their attention. Air New Zealand had said it would have to cancel 25 regional flights so tower staff at five small airports could comply with new labor rules which, strictly interpreted, would have required all breaks to be scheduled.
Air New Zealand spokesman Bruce Parton had said, very publicly, that the looming cancellations would take 2,500 seats out of the company’s regional capacity and cost it millions in revenue, not to mention the inconvenience for passengers at Gisborne, Napier, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill. Jobs also would have been lost at regional carriers Air Nelson and Eagle Air.