Pilot ‘shortage’: Air New Zealand replies (and the mystery deepens)

25 July 2013 / by the GAA team / Consultation, Employment, Governance

Air New Zealand has responded to GAA, following the uproar about its proposal to have Aeroplane Pilot added to the list of skills it alleges to be in short supply.

Captain David Morgan, Chief Operations Officer and Chief Pilot, told GAA today (July 25):

Your correspondence to [CEO] Christopher Luxon regarding the skills shortage list refers.

Can I advise you that Air New Zealand’s key focus is to employ high quality New Zealand candidates to work as pilots for the Group.

As part of our strategy to ensure we have sufficient pilots to meet the significant growth plans of our business in the medium-to-long-term we have applied to have pilots added to the Skills Shortage List. This is a precautionary measure and just one of many Air New Zealand initiatives in the pilot recruitment space.

Any changes to immigration policy relating to the pilot profession would not disadvantage any sufficiently qualified and capable New Zealand pilot.

Also for your information in 2010 Air New Zealand engaged with the flight training industry in New Zealand as part of an overall strategy to create a sustainable supply of quality pilots for the Air New Zealand Group, and as part of this process we elected to partner directly with five flight training organisations throughout the country. This relationship remains in place and in fact our submission is supported by our partner organisations and the wider aviation community as represented by the Aviation Industry Association.

Any further correspondence on this matter should be referred to myself given I have overall responsibility regarding pilot recruitment and training for the Group and I’m happy to answer any further questions you may have.

Yours faithfully

Capt David Morgan

Chief Flight Operations Officer/Chief Pilot

We asked Captain Morgan to confirm that the AIA had backed the application. He did, supporting this with an accompanying letter from Irene King of the AIA, dated May 4, which we reproduce, unedited:

Clare Montgomerie
Private Bag 921162

Dear Clare

Essential Skills in Demand Lists 2012 Review: Call for input to review proposals

You requested a letter of support from this Association in respect of an application to place pilots on the Essential skills in Demand List.

You further advised that you had been commissioned by an airline to make an application and therefore we are presuming the application you are making is for airline pilots only.

The Association fully supports such an application as it is very clear that there are critical shortages emerging in New Zealand of suitably qualified pilots for roles at all levels in airlines. This is manifests itself in very high turnover rates in the “pool” of skills that support entry into the airlines namely the RNZAF and Flight Schools.

While we firmly believe that it is preferable to engage New Zealanders in such roles as airline pilots we fully accept that there is insufficient supply through a combination of down turn in training at flight schools in New Zealand and an upswing in global demand for airline pilots. Both these factors are well documented.

Yours sincerely

Irene King
Chief Executive

There are two big problems for Air New Zealand and the AIA here (quite apart from the public relations disaster that Air New Zealand has brought upon itself).

First, Air New Zealand, its agent Pricewaterhousecoopers, the AIA and possibly others have failed to adequately promulgate the proposal to the wider aviation community. This may have something to do with the instant extension of the deadline for submissions (from July 26 to August 9) that resulted on Tuesday July 24 after ALPA’s involvement and GAA’s exposure of what was going on.

Second, we understand that such an application cannot be admitted or accepted unless an existing shortage – not an anticipated one – can be proved. An application by way of precaution appears to be prohibited, and cannot be employer-specific (which could cause Air New Zealand some difficulty, as an effective monopoly):

From the Immigration website:

Criteria for adding an occupation to the ESID Lists

The review process places an emphasis on ensuring that there is sound evidence to support changes to the lists.

Before a new occupation is added to one of the lists, the following must be confirmed.

• Industry is committed to training New Zealanders in these occupations.

• Industry is committed to fully utilising the domestic labour market before considering employing overseas workers.

• The shortage is not due to recruitment and retention issues arising as a result of terms and conditions of employment.

• Industry is committed to the provisions in New Zealand employment legislation that is available to workers.

• There is evidence of employers having difficulty employing staff.

• The numbers of apprentice or graduate trainees, and workers leaving or retiring from the industry have been estimated.

• Details of the qualification and skills required for the occupation have been confirmed.

• The shortage is not employer specific.

• There is a significant shortage for the occupation that may reasonably be met by migrants.

In addition to the above criteria, there are specific requirements related to each list.

Long-term Skill Shortage List Criteria

For an occupation to be added to the Long-term Skill Shortage List:

• There must be an ongoing and sustained (absolute) shortage, both globally and in New Zealand. [Note “must be”, not “will be” – Editor]

• The shortage must be across all geographic regions in New Zealand.

• The occupation must have a base salary of at least NZ$45,000 based on a 40-hour working week.

• The occupation must be highly skilled, meet the Skilled Migrant Category definition of skilled employment, and applicants must meet any registration requirements.

Industry interests are creating a deep hole for themselves. Now is a good time to stop digging.

We also raised the issue of UE in relation to pilot applicants. In writing to David Morgan, we stated:

A recurring theme among protestors is the claim that many who far exceed Air New Zealand’s requirements in terms of experience and qualifications have been rejected simply because they lack UE. While it is appreciated that such a condition is worthwhile because it indicates newly-qualified CPLs have the necessary academic ability to pass the type ratings and training required, it seems less relevant to considering someone who already has those ratings, training and practical experience – sometimes in spades.

Could you please clarify Air New Zealand’s current position on this aspect?

In response, Mr Morgan did not answer the question, and instead directed us to the Air New Zealand careers website