Qantas engineers threatened with strike breakers

Qantas engineers stopped work for four hours at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney airports over May 29-30. The workers are campaigning for a 5% wage increase.

The stopwork meetings were to have taken place two weeks ago. They were called off when the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), the workers' union, received information that Qantas had recruited strike breakers to fill the workers' jobs while they were on strike.

Qantas has cried poor, citing rising aircraft fuel prices as the reason it couldn't offer the workers more than a 3% increase. The airline claims it must make $1.5 billion in cuts to remain profitable.

The May 15 Sydney Morning Herald reported that Qantas had contracted labour hire company Newport Aviation to recruit more than 100 aircraft engineers from the region to replace Qantas staff if they proceeded with their stop work.

Steve Purvinas, ALAEA federal secretary, told ABC radio program AM on May 15 that the union had received a copy of a contract that one of the scabs had signed with the labour hire company. "It's a document or a contract between an Australian and a company called Newport Aviation to pay him $100,000 for six months", Purvinas told AM.

"These people, who have signed these contracts, have been put in a classroom and taught how to certify for Qantas planes. And the plan is for them to step onto those airports and take the place of Qantas workers when Qantas has the ability to lock them out from their employment."

Qantas replaced engineers with management staff for the duration of the four-hour stoppages. However, the company has refused to rule out the use of strike breakers should the union hold more strike action.