Qantas chief Alan Joyce says the airline must move jobs to New Zealand as part of its restructure of call centres.

Qantas has refused demands to keep 50 call centre jobs in Australia, saying it is “sensible” to send the jobs to New Zealand.

At the airline’s annual general meeting, Australian Services Union assistant national secretary Linda White asked chief executive Alan Joyce why the airline was creating jobs and leasing new office space at its Auckland call centre when its Hobart centre is half empty.

Ms White said it was a “complete copout” that Qantas was not hiring staff in Hobart.

“Why are you doing this when Hobart has the highest unemployment in Australia and there are people who want those jobs,” she asked.

Qantas is closing call centres in Brisbane and Melbourne as part of cost cuts, and has offered employees in those cities the opportunity to relocate to Tasmania.

The ASU has accused Qantas of backflipping on its commitment to Australia by not hiring in Tasmania when fewer staff than needed opted to relocate.

Mr Joyce said the jobs were being sent offshore as part of a restructure, where premium customers would be handled in Tasmania and general customers in Auckland.

“We believe we have to grow,” he said.

“The call centre in Auckland has been there for 10 years. To meet the work structure that we’re putting in place we’ll grow it by 50.”

Ms White said: “All I am asking is you bring the 50 jobs back to Australia”.

Chairman Leigh Clifford replied: “I know what you have asked. I think Alan has said he’s not doing it.”