Unions respond to lock out: 'This is blackmail'

October 29, 2011

The decision by Qantas management to ground the airline's fleet and look out its workforce has caused uproar around the country. However, the mainstream media have overwhelmingly focused on the position and arguments publicly put by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

The views of the unions that Joyce is seeking to destroy, as well as the actual demands of Qantas workers in negotiations with the company, have been marginalised or totally ignored. The unions are the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA).

Green Left Weekly explained on October 16 the issues behind the dispute, pointing out that Qantas recorded a $531 million pre-tax profit last year and has announced plans to sack 1000 workers and relocate some operations to Asia.

The article said: "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."

A post at Infrequentrant.blogpost.com provides more detail on exactly what it is the unions are asking for, as well as Qantas's response.

In response to the lock out, the vice-president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, Richard Woodward, said: ''Alan Joyce is holding a knife to the nation's throat.

''This is a stunning overreaction. It is straight-up blackmail. I knew he was trying to kill Qantas, but I didn't know he wanted to do it this quickly.''

Published below are statements by the TWU and AIPA in response to Joyce's moves.

* * *

TWU, 29/10/2011

Today's unwarranted and disgraceful snap announcement by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is designed to destroy Qantas as we have always known it.

No amount of chaos will cause Qantas senior management to deviate from their ambition to outsource Australian jobs to Asia and detonate the Qantas brand.

It is clear that Mr Joyce is unfit to lead this great Australian company. He should take his $5 million package and leave the airline in capable hands -- not those of someone who has seen share value halve and provided no dividend to shareholders for over two years.

Alan Joyce got a 71 per cent pay rise yesterday -- taking his pay to $5 million. He did not bother telling his shareholders he was about to utterly destroy their investment but locking out the people who keep Qantas planes safe. Why did he not advise shareholders of his plan to ruin the airline and wreck employee relations for years to come?

These are the actions of a hard-line ideological board built around a chair that still yearns for the workplace-busting days when he could roll out AWAs at will. He wants to re-inflict them on workers under a Tony Abbott-led anti-employee government.

Qantas management has totally lost touch with their employees. Their massive pay rises have sailed through, but the requests for certainty for three years on job security have been dismissed with lies.

The TWU has taken a total of six hours industrial action in over eight (8) months negotiations. Qantas has only issued an ultimatum that workers agree to it without even having the chance to look at it.

Make no mistake, Qantas has always wanted this dispute.

They trained strike-breakers 9 months ago to do the work of TWU members. They have never wanted to resolve their employees' claims. Never. Our claims have been to gain job security for the next enterprise bargaining agreement and a negotiable pay rise.

This is a breach of the Qantas Sale Act, pure and simple. The Act says Qantas has a national responsibility to the Australian community, content, and workforce.

The TWU is now calling on the Federal Government to intervene in the public interest and to preserve the jobs that Alan Joyce and his over-remunerated Board members are wilfully trying to destroy.

* * *

A statement in response to Qantas action

Following Qantas management’s unprecedented and unilateral decision to ground its fleet on Saturday there have been several erroneous reports both in the media and directly from management that we would like to clarify:

Industrial action by AIPA pilots has not cost the company a single cent in revenue.

Industrial action by AIPA has not delayed a single passenger or grounded a single flight.

Our entire public industrial action over the past 4 months has been to make positive in-flight announcements and to wear red ties with our campaign message on them.

For Qantas management to respond to these reasonable and non-disruptive actions in this way is more than a gross over-reaction. It is a sign that the current management has lost touch with the travelling public, its workers and the basic Australian ethos of free speech.

We are hoping for a positive outcome from today’s talks and will provide updates as soon as we can.

In the meantime we’d like to thank all of you who have expressed support for our pilots. Your kind words have been much appreciated.

Barry Jackson
Australian and International Pilots Association

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