What Exactly is the Role of the Air Pacfic Board?

Who's riding on Air Pacific?
On October 1st I published a detailed argument  Why on Earth Did Government Need the Essential Industries Decree? about what is wrong about the Employment Decree and how it was approved.  More importantly, the article raised doubts about Government's style of government and how it may affect its future actions.

The Citizens' Constitutional Forum has now questioned the role of Air Pacific in the promotion of the Decree:

This from Radio NZ International: The CCF  has strongly criticised Air Pacific for its role in helping the interim regime with a decree widely seen as being anti union.

The airline’s management has drawn criticism after admitting to paying a New York law firm to draft Fiji’s Essential National Industries Decree.

The Forum’s CEO, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, says it is alarming the level of influence an exclusive group of companies and individuals have in imposing law reform in Fiji.

    “The admission by the Air Pacific CEO of their role in drafting the Essential National Industries Employment Decree became kind of a cause for alarm. Here we have interference into governance allowed by the Bainimarama government to get through very important legislation or a decree which was not committed to genuine consultation, inclusiveness and accountability.”

The Reverend Yabaki has met the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, saying the Decree is a bad advert for governance and undermines unions in Fiji.

The CCF is not alone in criticising Air Pacific for its role in promoting the Decree.  This is what a reader emailed me today:

The cynicism of Air Pacific takes one's breath away.

Step 1: it (its management) has lost money over the past few years.
Step 2: so as a 'means of saving money' it hires consultants to draft a decree for the government to stop its staff from striking (and many other things) (question: has AP staff gone on strike at all over the last ten years?) - in other words, the AP management is creating the straw man for the reason it has lost money being because of its dodgy staff, not its poor management.
Step 3: it 'sells' the decree to the Fiji gov't to put it into law - said gov't is swept away with AP's generosity and because it (the IG) believes there's a bogy man under the bed, it does with the draft exactly what AP wanted it to do.
Step 4: AP re-organises its fleet to cut down on costs (or some such) but doesn't bother telling anyone its plans, let alone asking anyone (exporters) whether they'd mind at all.
Step 5: the IG (that has been spending $$ for years encouraging farmers to grow export crops) and the farmers (the growers) have the rug pulled from under them - just like that: no consultation; no 'Gees, we forgot - let's talk'; no offer of some rearrangement or alternative means of exporting the fragile products. Step 6: the IG has egg on its face with the farmers - lots more consultations, and time and cost - that it will have to shell out, not AP. In other words, AP is in it for themselves and themselves only. It hoodwinked the IG on a false premise that the Essential National Industries Employment Decree  was needed, and then it throws sand in its face.


get over it said…
To be honest it is better than the AG dreaming up decrees on his own. But in the end why all the fuss on this decree. If you support his government you support adhoc decision making with no checks and balance. If you support this government you support total power in the hands of a few ill equipped people and you just have to accept what they do.
Anonymous said…
Speaking of Air Pacific remember governments own "review" led by the AG and the outrage at the time everything was Qantas fault. The review that quiently went away and we never heard a result. In fact in the end government realised they had no chance of running a airline with qantas and could not afford it anyway !
Simple really said…
I think you miss the point on this decree. It is designed to remove the power of UNIONS and in particular known UNION LEADERS. Who can be annoying when pushed in a corner. It is important no opposition to this government be allowed to emerge. That way we can have a election and the military can continue on taking Fiji forward except as a "elected government". Pretty simple and nice of Air Pac to chip in - by the way Air Pac are majority owned by government so they paid for more than 50% of the bills anyway.
Share Option Scheme for AP said…
@ Unions 'pushed in a corner:

Not a good idea to antagonise organised labour unless and until you are certain you will win. Other airlines which are privately owned and run either have 'no union policies' by gingerly ensuring that all employees are on individual contracts which ensure their conduct is conducive to profitability and 'adding value' : first for shareholders. They might have a share-acquisition scheme as an incentive for excellent performance. Share ownership is empowering and adds to efficiency and self-esteem.

What is wrong with this? Surely, individuals are now sufficiently 'grown up' to negotiate their own contracts? Thus permitting a measure of stability within the airline industry? It is past managements and boards that have so grievously under-performed. The current board must also be held to proper account bearing in mind that taxpayers' money is still funding the majority AP investment and board member remuneration. We, the taxpaying public, expect 'value-added' and returns on our investment. After all, years of losses have to be made-up for by greater efficiency and with profits for future capital expenditure. For too long in Fiji, union leaders determined for themselves that profit was a dirty word. A foolish deduction since their jobs and their pensions depended upon it. However, was training ever directed towards ensuring they fully understood the role of profit and returns to shareholders in State-owned enterprises? We must doubt it. So, what of a Worker Participation Scheme on the model of Air Terminal Services? This was the first company of its kind in Fiji and was specifically designed to show that the concept might work. Share ownership which permits employees to acquire shares in the enterprise at a premium price should now be encouraged. The price of shares goes up and down with the market. There can be few disciplines and incentives which are more salutary than this? Who would choose to deliberately wreck the very industry which sustains them and their families? And in which they are invested over and above their labour?
Privatisation said…
@ Simple Really....

Air Pacific is majority owned by the taxpayers of Fiji. It is quite simply a misrepresentation to state 'owned by Government'. Efficiency and productivity would improve if this simple truth were stated often and with clarity to ensure that all employees at whatever level 'got it'! If they cannot 'get it' then privatise it fully and prepare it for private sale.
Chinese assembled Airbus 330s? said…
@ The role of the AP Board....?

Is surely to serve the best interest of the Shareholders: Minor shareholder QANTAS; majority shareholder the Taxpayers of Fiji.

THe purchase of three Airbus 330s may have something to do with their assembly in an Airbus factory based in China. Can this be so? Seeking loans from European Banks would be a pretty fruitless exercise just now. The banks are rapidly running out of capital and many are massively over-exposed to Greek debt with Italian and Spanish debt looming on the horizon. Why would they choose to entertain an exceedingly ailing airline based in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean?

But, the Chinese connection to Airbus might feature here. Some homework is needed on this. Finding some working capital along the way might also have something to do with this. Who is going to fly these aircraft? Who will foot the considerable re-training bills? Surely, we are not going to contemplate bringing in more contract pilots on two week Visitor Visas. One of the most scurrilous acts ever undertaken by Senior Management in any enterprise ever in Fiji's History.

So who on the AP Board went along with that? Our memories are still sharp. Jobs for Fijians First! And who will foot the insurance costs? Considerable particularly with regard to a challenging history of accidents. We are accustomed to reading monthly Emergency and Accident reports. A distinctly sobering exercise and well worth the effort. No, not 'downloaded' from a company computer. Sent in the 'Bag' from Kremlin HQ - the old-fashioned way. Far safer and more reliable.

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