Global unions signal they want to join fight against Qantas

Release date: 17/11/2011

Aviation unions from around the world warned Qantas last night that they would get involved in any future industrial confrontation between the flag-carrying airline and Australian unions.

Peter Wilson, Europe Correspondent, The Australian 

With Qantas advertising to try to reassure customers that it is safe to book for the Christmas holiday period, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) said any further conflict at the airline would escalate to involve workers from outside.

"Workers at other airlines and right across the industry, including ground support staff and air traffic controllers, are watching this dispute very closely because it could set a precedent for cutting costs and cutting standards at many other airlines," said David Cockroft, the ITF general secretary.

"I have to be careful what I say for legal reasons but workers at airports around the world will do whatever they can within the law to support the Qantas workforce."

The ITF claims to have 779 union affiliates including 275 airline unions, representing 4.67 million workers in 155 countries.The ITF will this morning hold a rally outside the Australian high commission in London and smaller events at airports around the world to voice their opposition to Qantas management. In London a union official wearing a mask representing Qantas chief Alan Joyce wielded a fake knife against another unionist in a kangaroo costume "to show that Joyce is stabbing the Qantas emblem and the spirit of Australia in the back", said Mr Cockroft.

"In Britain the Unite union is watching very carefully because Willie Walsh (the head of British Airlines' parent company) is looking ... for ways to downgrade and outsource services.

"If Qantas gets away with setting up low-cost, low-quality, offshore airlines of inconvenience then lots of other airlines would quickly do the same thing.

"So far nobody has managed to replace a well established full-service airline with a cheap, low-rent alternative and we will not let Alan Joyce set that precedent because if this kind of offshoring and downsizing spreads it could be the end of genuine national airlines and the beginning of airlines of inconvenience low-cost, union-cleansed, relocated and flagged out."

The Qantas dispute has been discussed in great detail this week at a London meeting of senior ITF officials, whose current president is Paddy Crumlin of Australia's Maritime Union of Australia.

Mr Crumlin said transport workers were "demonstrating here and ... in Frankfurt, Tokyo, Manila, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Auckland, Wellington, Buenos Aires and Santiago to put the case for a settlement that respects the needs, aspirations and strengths of Qantas workers."

"Alan Joyce has been playing a kind of hardball associated with an emerging style of management exemplified by Willy Walsh at BA and Michael O'Leary at Ryanair," he said.

"It has been decisively challenged by the Australian government and by aviation workers worldwide, and it will be defeated."

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