Qantas: destroying workers' lives and the environment

Qantas chief executive officer Geoff Dixon announced on July 18 that the company will sack 1500 workers by December and that its plan to hire 1200 more people has been cancelled. The sackings include 99 workers in Qantas call centres in London and Tucson, Arizona, when those centres are shut down.

Qantas will also stop recruiting pilots for Jetstar, and close its Adelaide pilot and cabin crew base. As part of its cost cutting campaign, the airline will also retire 22 planes.

Dixon cited high fuel prices as the main reason for the cuts. According to the International Air Transport Association, the price of crude oil has risen 102% in the last year. CommSec figures put the fuel price rise at 18% since the beginning of 2008.

Despite crying poor, however, Qantas made a record $720 million net profit last year and seems set to make an obscenely high profit again this year. Dixon isn't worried about the 1500 workers who will lose their jobs; he told media he is "confident" they will all find new employment because the Australian economy is still strong.

At a business lunch in Sydney on July 23, Dixon predicted that increasing fuel prices and globalisation would lead to a concentration of ownership in the international aviation industry. His comments indicated many more job losses to come.

On the same day that Dixon announced the axing of 1500 jobs, he also complained that the government's proposed carbon emissions trading scheme would increase the airline's operating costs by $100 million. Qantas, like all large corporations, is concerned first and foremost with its rate of profit; the fact that it is a major generator of deadly greenhouse gases is not a factor in the company's decision-making.

When considered together, these two announcements by Qantas — that it will sack a large number of workers and oppose any efforts (albeit extremely weak) to reduce its carbon emissions — point to re-nationalisation of the company as the only way to ensure it is publicly accountable and therefore does not continue to destroy either workers' livelihoods or the planet.

Meanwhile, one group of Qantas workers have had a win following weeks of industrial action against the company. On July 21, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association announced that it had come to an in-principle agreement with Qantas for an average pay rise of 4.75% per year for four years for 1500 Qantas engineers.