The National Party shadow treasurer claims a union leader appointed to Air New Zealand’s board was appointed by the government and called the director “ill-qualified”.
On Monday, the airline announced that Paul Goulter, Alison Gerry and Claudia Batten have been appointed to its board of directors.
Goulter is the national secretary of New Zealand’s largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, and director of the Co-operative Bank. He has 40 years of trade union experience in Australasia, including as secretary of the New Zealand Council for Trade Unions and general secretary of the financial industry association Finsec.
In a press release issued on Tuesday titled: “Government plans union official to rule Air NZ,” National’s Andrew Bayly said Grant Robertson, Air New Zealand’s shareholder secretary, had “showed poor judgment” in appointing Goulter.
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Air New Zealand’s board charter states that the board is responsible for making director appointments.
Bayley noted that Goulter’s appointment came after Robertson sent a letter to Air New Zealand in April setting out the airline’s government expectations, including the expectation to maintain domestic destinations, continue to meet the results on the environmental sustainability and its role as a leader for best relationships in the workplace.
“To achieve these expectations and objectives, governance culture and skills need to be aligned with Air New Zealand’s strategy and stakeholder relationships as part of ongoing governance renewal. The government expects to be involved as a majority shareholder in the process that will lead to board renewal,” the letter said.
The government has a 52 percent stake in the airline and has provided a loan worth up to $1.5 billion to help the airline through the coronavirus pandemic.
Bayley said there had always been an element of “political patronage” in appointing people to government agencies.
“Mr Robertson does not appear to be acting in the best interests of Air New Zealand by appointing a person who has so little proven management experience.
“While it is clear that Air New Zealand needs to maintain good relations with the many unions that represent its staff, the logic for his appointment seems little more than that he clearly supports the government.”
Hiring “ill-qualified people” ran the risk of the company being perceived by the investment market as being unduely influenced by the government, which would likely devalue the company for all shareholders, he said.
A spokesman for Robertson said he was on leave and could not be reached for comment.