Up to 26 Air New Zealand engineers could lose their jobs in a proposed merger of technical operations staff.

The airline says it could save $15.5 million over five years. The union representing most of the affected workers says it could be an attack on working conditions and pay across a wide group of engineers.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe said the changing shape of the fleet, with newer Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft and more Airbus A320 aircraft, had prompted a review of its technical operations staff.

"These new generation aircraft have a different maintenance profile, which requires us to have the flexibility to deploy engineers where their expertise is needed, whether that's addressing day to day issues in the line environment or working on scheduled maintenance work in our hangars," Fyfe said.


Under the proposal the line maintenance unit would be merged with the aircraft maintenance business. About 1300 staff work in both areas. Staff and union officials were being briefed this week.

Most of the affected workers are covered by the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association whose secretary Jacqui Roberts said members were considering the proposal. "What they're saying is there's going to be less work done on the new aircraft and we have seen this," Roberts said

"The concern from the guys is that we have a collective agreement for line maintenance that runs through to 2013 and what we think they're trying to do is to get rid of the collective and change the shift patterns."

Earlier this year the airline shed more than 400 jobs, mainly in management and support.