Home' Asian Aviation : AAV Dec Jan2011 2012. Contents AsianAviation | DECEMBER 2011 / JANUARY 2012 17
Labour relations for Australia s largest
airline, Qantas Airways, were at an
all-time low as Asian Aviation went to
press, with disputes with three unions
now handed over to be resolved by
national tribunal Fair Work Australia
(FWA). Months of negotiations are likely, with any
decisions made by the independent tribunal binding
on all sides, for a maximum of four years.
In addition, Qantas is facing possible court action
from one union as it embarks on the long process of
rebuilding its image, which has been severely damaged
by months of industrial action and the grounding of
its eet in late October.
Over a 15-month period, Qantas had reached
accord with four unions, representing more than
10,000 employees -- or a third of the workforce --
on ve enterprise agreements. But the airline was
unable to reach agreement with three more : the
Australian and International Pilots Association
(AIPA), the Australian Licensed Aircra Engineers
Association (ALAEA) and the Transport Workers
Union (TWU), which respectively represent long-
haul pilots, licensed engineers, and ramp, baggage and
catering sta .
Months of failed negotiations resulted in industrial
action by the unions, which saw ights cancelled and
aircra grounded. By 28 October, Qantas said the
industrial action had cost it A$68 million (US$69
million) -- or A$15 million per week in lost revenue.
Between August and late October, almost 71,000
passengers had been a ected by 129 cancelled ights
and 387 delayed ser vices. e airline had been forced
to ground seven aircra -- four Boeing 767s and three
Boeing 737s -- due to a backlog of maintenance,
resulting in 500 ights being cancelled and 88,000
seats removed from sale.
Qantas s response was dramatic -- locking out all
employees covered by the industrial agreements being
negotiated with the AIPA, ALAEA and TWU, a
move that necessitated the entire eet to be grounded
late on 29 October. at move cost Qantas A$20
million a day, but Chief Executive O cer Alan Joyce
claimed the airline had no alternative.
" is is a crisis for Qantas. If this action continues
as the unions have promised, we will have no choice
but to close down Qantas part by part," he said
when announcing the grounding. Qantas estimates
the grounding and industrial action will have an
unfavourable nancial impact of US$194 million in
the rst half of nancial year 2012.
Qantas returned to flying operations on 31
October when the Federal Government applied
for a termination of the industrial dispute, with the
matter handed over to Fair Work Australia (FWA),
the national workplace relations tribunal, to facilitate
ongoing negotiations between Qantas and the unions.
All parties were given 21 days to reach a settlement.
at deadline passed without agreement on 21
November, and Qantas decided not to take up a
further 21-day negotiation option. e dispute is now
le to FWA s independent arbitrators to resolve. While
Qantas expressed disappointment at the failure, some
unions accused the carrier of deliberately sabotaging
the negotiations in order to force them into arbitration.
"Qantas is extremely disappointed that, despite
over six months of negotiations and a further three
weeks of conciliation talks before FWA, the TWU
has refused to remove its unreasonable demands," the
According to Joyce : "We made a generous o er,
which included reasonable increases in pay and
conditions, protections on the jobs of existing
Qantas employees and Qantas maintaining the
exibility we need to run the airline. e union
rejected this o er. We did make some progress,
but we simply cannot agree to all of the union s
demands. We cannot give in to demands that we
hand over control of parts of the airline to the
union. e union was asking us to break the law and
agree to only use companies that have enterprise
agreements in place with the TWU and to write
this into a legal document. We simply could not
agree to that."
Rescuing Qantas s brand may prove just as tough
a challenge as resolving its labour disputes.
Qantas locks horns
Australia's Qantas will no doubt be pleased to see the back of 2011,
hoping the New Year will bring with it a resolution to its labour union woes,
writes Emma Kelly.
"This is a crisis for Qantas. If
this action continues as the
unions have promised, we will
have no choice but to close
down Qantas part by part."
-- Qantas CEO Alan Joyce
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