Qantas unions stand up to management

October 15, 2011

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is in line for a salary increase of 71% at the airline’s upcoming annual general meeting, but Qantas staff continue to battle the company for job security and decent pay.

The proposed increase will bring Joyce's annual salary package to $5 million.

“It really is hard to fathom how management can look employees in the eye and say the cupboard is bare when executive salaries have sky-rocketed and the company ran a ,” Transport Workers Union (TWU) lead negotiator Scott Connolly said on October 12.

The TWU, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) are each seeking new enterprise agreements with the airline to replace the agreements struck under the Howard government’s Work Choices laws.

Former CEO of Qantas Geoff Dixon welcomed the introduction of Howard’s anti union laws at a Qantas AGM in 2005. He said Work Choices would give “established, successful companies like Qantas greater flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions”.

Negotiations between Qantas and the TWU have so far lasted more than 30 weeks. The pilots began their negotiations in October last year and the engineers in mid-last year.

In that time, Qantas has not only recorded a huge profit but announced plans to sack more than 1000, and is accelerating plans to relocate some operations to Asia.

The TWU is seeking improvements including a 5% wages and allowance rise a year, and greater job security opportunities for casual, labour-hire and contract staff, and protection from outsourcing.

ALAEA is claiming a 3% pay rise a year for three years and better job security provisions. AIPA wants to include a clause in its new enterprise agreement to guarantee Qantas flights are piloted by Qantas pilots or by pilots on conditions equal to the Qantas pilot agreement. This is to remove the incentive for Qantas to outsource pilot work.

AIPA has responded to management’s position by seeking members’ approval for protected industrial action for the first time in 45 years.

Ninety-four percent of pilots voted in favour of taking protected action, including stop work action. But so far action by pilots has been limited to in-flight announcements and refusing to comply with the uniform code — wearing red ties instead of the standard Qantas ties.

On October 14, Qantas posted information on its website that claimed it is the target of a “co-ordinated campaign by the licensed engineers and long-haul pilots unions, and the Transport Workers Union”.

But the unions have responded to Qantas demanding that they “put up or shut up” about these allegations.

The ALP’s Fair Work Act kept the Work Choices provisions that stop unions from legally acting together to achieve job security and reasonable pay outcomes for employees under separate agreements, even when those agreements are with the same employer.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) is in middle of an industrial campaign to secure a new collective agreement with Jetstar — Qantas’s cut-price subsidiary.

Negotiations began in November last year, but have stalled. Members of the ASU have taken their first ever industrial action against the airline, after management failed to put forward a reasonable offer after more than a year of negotiations.


What is good for the boss is good for the workers isn't it? It would appear not I wonder what the Qantas workers Know that they are not allowed to say? Qantas large profit last few years especially compared to most other airlines yet no share dividend payed? New aircraft ordered or on order but not for Qantas. When Qantas disappears who will be at fault the government, managment or the employees? The government for writing the legislation. Managment for writing their own pay checks. The worker for using the system that the government and managment make the workers use? Then blame the unions for staying within the Law. Just a thought stop wasting everybodies time and how about managment send to the negotiations the person that can make the decision. If you used this approach you may not have to employee layers of inept managment. Some things aren't always about money. Business ethics appear to be only about money. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Qantas is an Australian Icon which has survived because of its people. Staff loyalty is earned. It really can't be bought, but executives appear to be after short term gain, 70% pay rise sack 1,000 workers send business overseas, give business to competitors then say that the business is not profitable. Who made the decisions, the workers or the CEO and Board!

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