Air New Zealand is seeking approval to hire senior staff from overseas, including aircraft engineers, just 18 months after ditching 200 engineering jobs through layoffs.
The airline has applied to the Department of Labour to renew its "employer accreditation status" which allows accredited employers to fast-track hiring non-New Zealand residents.
In a leaked memo seeking a response from key unions whose members are employed by Air New Zealand, the Labour Department points out that other overseas recruitment options were available to the company, but accreditation streamlined the application process.
According to the departmental memo, Air New Zealand said it wished to retain its employer accreditation "because of a current need to recruit talented staff and also in anticipation for (any) future need to recruit talented staff from offshore should the need arise".
Air New Zealand named "aircraft engineers, fleet managers and other senior management positions" among the positions the company wanted to fill.
Its bid drew a terse response from the Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU), which is preparing submissions against the proposal for the Labour Department.
"You reap what you sow," EPMU national aviation industry organiser Strachan Crang said.
He said the union warned Air New Zealand it was being "short-sighted" when negotiating the last round of engineering layoffs.
Air New Zealand engineers last year reluctantly accepted a plan to prevent the company outsourcing its wide-body heavy engineering work overseas.
About 200 jobs were lost, but 300 were retained and the company kept open its engineering bases in Auckland and Christchurch.
Mr Crang said the airline's latest move to recruit from overseas "just shows to us that they got it wrong, because they can't attract New Zealand employees on New Zealand wages".
Air New Zealand's current situation was a reflection of how the company was seen in the labour market, he said.
"They're not attracting people they want in their business so they have to go away overseas to attract people who don't know what Air New Zealand is like."
Mr Crang said the New Zealand labour market was tight and workers took an interest in how businesses conduct themselves.
The EPMU was liaising with the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association in preparing submissions on the company's proposal.
"It's very sad when you have to bring in labour from overseas to do the work that should be done by New Zealand workers," he said.
"They (engineers) are out there. They just don't want to work for Air New Zealand."
Mr Crang said he knew of some former Air New Zealand engineers who had turned down recent job offers from the airline.
An Air New Zealand spokeswoman told NZPA the application was a "standard renewal process" that the airline went through each year.
She said Air New Zealand would make no further comment on the issue.