Sunday, December 4, 2011

Qantas Freight and Passenger Battle Continues and Changes to Legislature Loom

Bitter Dispute Set to Continue
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – Unions are ratcheting up the pressure on Qantas with delegates at the current national Labour Party conference lobbying to change the Fair Work Act to prevent employers contracting out more than a specified quantity of jobs to outsourced labour. Union representatives claim that Qantas are contravening the Qantas Sale Act and called for it too to be strengthened. For their part Qantas management said that with much of its freight and passenger operations in Asia any change to the act to force them into an ‘Australian Only’ policy would be counterproductive.

The Fair Work Act came into force in July 2009 and is administered by Fair Work Australia, the Qantas Sale Act dates from the 1990’s and is principally aimed at ensuring the national airline maintains the high safety standards it has always set. Objections to revisions to the Act requested by Qantas management were raised in October by the Australian and International Pilots Association prompting Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce , speaking before a Senate committee last month, to say:

"It would not protect Australian jobs. It would have the opposite effect. It would put our business in jeopardy. It would threaten Australian jobs, would Australia seriously consider applying these principles to other great Australian companies such as ANZ, BHP or Westfield, who also invest and employ in overseas markets? The bill represents a significant threat to the viability of Qantas and the growing number of Jetstar airlines operating in Asia, even those that don't fly to and from Australia.”

The unions are raging at the possibility of jobs going abroad, with consequential lower rates of pay. Mr Joyce and Chairman Leigh Clifford have been the focus of much of the criticism with Transport Workers Union federal secretary Tony Sheldon saying:

“Despite an annual pre-tax profit of A$530 million and the decision to award a 71% pay increase to Alan Joyce, the board and management continue to squeeze their workers for every cent, whilst lowering standards of service and safety. To outsource and relocate existing work will lower the high standards expected of the airline by all Australians we must keep the majority ownership, operation and governance of these airlines in Australia".

Yesterday saw several hundred volunteers distribute over 200,000 Qantas Family leaflets in support of ‘Qantas Families Day’ devoted to maintain pressure on the airlines management by drumming up public support.