This follows an agreement between the Labour Inspectorate and Airways Corporation of New Zealand (Airways NZ) which means that Air Traffic Controller (ATC) trainees will in future be treated as employees for the practical second part of their training programme and paid accordingly.

Prior to the agreement, ATC trainees were not regarded as employees. During part 2 of their training, they were paid an allowance but not paid as employees. This will now change and the trainees will be paid as employees of Airways NZ during this part of their training.

The Labour Inspectorate became involved when they reviewed the recruitment process and training programme at Airways NZ.

Part 1 of Air Traffic Controller training takes place in Christchurch over about 8 months and is theory-based. Part 2 is on-the-job training at various air control towers throughout New Zealand and takes 9 months with the trainees working full-time hours.

The agreement also has implications for former ATC trainees. Airways NZ will now go back 6 years to calculate minimum wage, annual leave pay, public holiday and alternative holiday pay owed to participants, for part 2 of the ATC training.

Brendon Strieker, the Labour Inspectorate’s Regional Manager, Southern, said that when an inspector started investigating the relationship between the trainees and Airways NZ, they believed the relationship was one of employment, and that the trainees should be considered employees.

The Labour Inspectorate then applied to the Employment Court seeking a declaration that 2 trainees who were part of a group initially interviewed by a Labour Inspector, were in fact employees. They also applied to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) seeking minimum wage, annual leave pay, public holiday and alternative holiday arrears for the 2 trainees.

After the agreement between the Labour Inspectorate and Airways NZ, the Employment Court issued a consent Judgement stating that the 2 trainees were in fact employees during the second part of their training, while the ERA issued a determination by consent that the agreement between the parties was an order of the Authority.

"The agreement between the parties is welcome because it applies to all new trainees going forward. Also the employers have agreed to do the calculations for other participants in part 2 of the training going back 6 years," said Mr Strieker.