There’s a lot going on with the Qantas lockout that isn’t being reported in our media. This guest post from a reader who’s an aviation industry expert gives the dispute some context.
I didn’t believe it yesterday when I was told yesterday that Qantas had grounded the airline and locked-out its pilots, licensed engineers and ground handlers who were taking low level industrial action in support of their claims in collective bargaining. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is either a mad man or a man on a mission to break the transport unions in Australia.
I think he’s a bit of both and I think that this time he has spent all his capital on this one and he will be gone as all managers do after a big dispute. The dispute is all based about job security and now he is holding not just the workers at ransom he is holding the Australian tourism industry too.
The pilots have been battling against the constant off-shoring of their jobs. How does this happen? Easy, just bring in foreign pilots to fly Qantas aircraft. You don’t need to look far for an example: global shipping industry and the Rena running up on the Astrolabe Reef of Tauranga. All Qantas has to do is register aircraft, set up a company and employ pilots all in another country and you have a flag of convenience airline. Qantas started this model in New Zealand with Jet Connect and it has worked. Now they are looking at replicating it in Asia.
Licensed engineers are protecting their profession and the quality. Qantas has been slowly increasing the amount of off-shoring and outsourcing. Everyone is aware of the problems Qantas has been having with it engines and airframes lately. And it is no surprise that this is happening either. 2 years ago Qantas appointed Chris Nassenstein as their head of Engineering. Chris was the head of Air New Zealand Engineering in 2005 when Air New Zealand proposed to outsource its Engineering Operations to Asia.
Ground handling is the same story of a race to the bottom and threats of outsourcing the work to the lowest bidder in the market irrespective of the service levels or security background of the company offering the service.
Alan Joyce made his name as Jet Star’s CEO and was appointed the CEO of Qantas in 2008. He is anti-union and it seems is hell bent on turning Qantas into a low cost carrier. Since he took over Qantas her hasn’t been shy about their plans to off-shore and outsource Qantas jobs in order to become more profitable. The airline has been doing well and so has he. Last Friday the shareholder and board agreed to a pay packet worth over $5 million. This added fuel to the fire and caused a mum and dad shareholder walkout. The Australian population is becoming impatient with the head of its national carrier.
There are 3 different labour agreements covering these work areas and it has been boiling now for some years. It is a perfect storm and it looks likely that the Government will win its application for the dispute to be suspended whilst an arbitration is undertaken.
Update: as predicted the lockout has been put on hold by the Fair Work Court.