Lunch Break Issue Resolved

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Common sense and a spirit of cooperation have resolved a peculiar impasse in New Zealand that would have resulted in the closure of towers at five airports for lunch, twice each day. Government officials, the air traffic control provider and employees have reached a deal whereby tower staff will eat lunch in a combination of scheduled meal breaks and traffic-dependent interludes. Late last week Air New Zealand said it would have to cancel 25 regional flights so tower staff at five small airports can comply with new labor rules. The rules, apparently strictly interpreted, would have required all lunch breaks to be scheduled. On the eve of the April 1 imposition of the rules, negotiators worked overtime to come up with schedules that complied with the law but kept the towers open and there were no disruptions.

It's worth noting, however, that the rules have been looming for six months and the deal was struck literally at the 11th hour. Air New Zealand's public description of the effect may have had something to do with it. Airline spokesman Bruce Parton said the cancellation would have taken 2,500 seats out of the company's regional capacity and cost it millions in revenue. It would also mean less convenience for passengers in the affected communities of Gisborne, Napier, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Invercargill. Jobs would also have been lost at two regional carriers, Air Nelson and Eagle Air.