Aviation workers are furious at millions of dollars of share options being issued to Air New Zealand executives after thousands of staff have been sacked.
Trade union Etū says rights worth $2.03 million were issued to chief executive Greg Foran and millions of dollars of rights to other members of the executive.
While there are share price performance conditions attached to the long term incentives which would be payable in 2023, the union says the move is "'tone deaf".
With around 4000 of the airline's crew having already lost their jobs and hundreds of 787 crew set to be made redundant before Christmas, the union's head of aviation, Savage, says this would further damage the airline's reputation.
He would be taking the matter up with Finance Minister Grant Robertson, a shareholding minister in the airline.
"For the board and the executives to take the share options at this time will do nothing to rebuild the airline's performance. It's rubbing salt into an already painful wound," he said.
While Air New Zealand has defended the move, staff are incensed.
"I've never seen crew so upset as they were over the weekend. It's just another kick while they're already down as crew numbers are being decimated," says one worker.
"This flies in the face of Air New Zealand's internal programme around rebuilding, which is about supporting from within and looking after staff in order to look after the customer. This is not looking after staff."
Some crew have found themselves relying on benefits as their incomes have dropped, the worker says.
Another airport worker who prefers to remain anonymous says, "People are losing their jobs. This is completely insensitive."
Savage said union members are foregoing pay increases and not collecting contractual performance bonuses to help the airline save money.
"The announcement will further reinforce the view of union members that the company's strategy needs a complete overhaul."
Air New Zealand is drawing down on a $900 million Government loan and has been paid wage and freight subsidies of more than $130m.
"Air New Zealand has drawn down on their government loan and it seems this public money is now being spent on lining the pockets of the senior management," Savage said.
"The distribution of pay to staff needs to be fair, and the airline needs to retain and create decent jobs."
Air New Zealand's chairwoman Dame Therese Walsh said executive remuneration ''is in line with the standards'' for public companies and none of the Government's loan was being used to fund incentives.
Executive remuneration disclosed in the annual report shows that half of the executive team's annual remuneration is at risk via short-term cash incentives and long-term share incentives.
The short-term incentive has been cancelled for 2020 and 2021 and the long-term incentive due to vest in 2020 failed to meet the performance criteria. This means executives will not be paid any short term or long-term incentives this year.
She said Foran's total compensation for 2020 will be around 40 per cent of his target remuneration which was $3.56m.
If the company has not met rigorous performance targets by 2023, the share rights will lapse.
''The Government loan is not in any way being used to fund these incentives. The Air New Zealand chief executive officer and his executive team play a critical role in navigating our airline through one of the most difficult periods in its history.''
Walsh said the board was confident that the compensation approach appropriately incentivised the management to outperform for the benefit of all shareholders, employees and customers.
In the notice to the NZX the airline said the 5.8 million performance rights give participants the right to receive ordinary shares in the company subject to certain vesting conditions being met on or after September 15, 2023.
The vesting of performance rights is subject to the company's share price outperforming a comparison index made up 50:50 between the NZX All Index and the Bloomberg World Airline Index over a three year measurement period from the date of issue.
Fifty per cent of the rights will vest if the company's share price has matched the index over the measurement period, and for each 1 per cent the share price outperforms the index, a further 2.5 per cent of performance rights will vest until reaching the maximum 100.
If the share price does not match the index on the third anniversary of the issue date, there will be a further six-month opportunity for the performance rights to vest, the statement to NZX says.
Air New Zealand has been badly hit by the pandemic, plunging to its first loss in 18 years. Its share price plunged to 80c in late March but today hit a high of $1.70 on news of a vaccine breakthrough.