Qantas axes hundreds of jobs

Release date: 8/11/2012

- 200 Qantas line maintenance jobs cut in Sydney
- 250 contractors at Avalon in Victoria

- About 50 jobs elsewhere, including Richmond

- 100 new jobs created in Brisbane

By Matt O'Sullivan, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 November 2012

Qantas has this year cut about 1260 jobs from its engineering operations. Photo: AFP

Qantas is cutting another 500 engineering jobs in Sydney and at Avalon Airport in Victoria as the airline steps up the consolidation of its heavy maintenance bases from two to one.

About 200 of the latest job cuts will be to line-maintenance roles at Qantas’s jet base at Sydney Airport and the remainder mostly from heavy maintenance at Avalon Airport near Geelong.

Qantas' share price has sprung to life.Qantas has this year cut about 1260 jobs from its engineering operations. Photo: AFP

The airline has decided to cut jobs in Sydney because it believes it has an oversupply of line-maintenance engineers. They undertake day-to-day servicing of aircraft.

The latest cuts in Victoria are to engineers who have been reconfiguring Qantas’s nine remaining Boeing 747-400 aircraft. The last of the jumbos will be completed by the end of this month.

About 250 of the workers to go at Avalon are contractors.

Qantas will also reduce its workforce at Qantas Defence Services which conducts maintenance on the Defence Forces’s C130 Hercules aircraft at RAAF Richmond in Sydney.

As well, it will consolidate its engineering training facilities from Melbourne to Sydney.

Boosting Brisbane

However, Qantas will boost its workforce at its heavy maintenance base at Brisbane Airport by 100, and the airline has emphasised that the latest cuts will result in a net loss of about 400 jobs.

It takes the total number of jobs axed from Qantas’s engineering operations this year to about 1260, and is a further blow to Victoria’s manufacturing industries.

Qantas closed its heavy maintenance base at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport in August, resulting in the loss of 422 jobs. A further 113 positions have already gone from its other engineering facility at the Lindsay Fox-owned Avalon Airport due to a reduction in the work there.

It will leave engineering workforce at Avalon at several hundred.

The airline has repeatedly flagged that it plans to eventually close the heavy maintenance base at Avalon Airport, and shift the work to its eight-year-old Brisbane base.

Since closing the Tullamarine base, Qantas has shifted work on its 737 fleet to the Brisbane maintenance facility. Avalon will continue to maintain the remaining 747 fleet.

Qantas’s total engineering workforce totals about 5000, some of whom are contractors.

Union blasts cuts

The aircraft engineers’ union has described the latest jobs cuts as ‘‘another step towards turning our national carrier into an unsafe airline’’.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association’s federal secretary, Steve Purvinas, said under staffing at the airline was ‘‘becoming dangerous and Qantas management are disregarding basic laws of aviation safety’’.

“It beggars belief that Qantas management's answer to a recent spate of maintenance errors, many being investigated by CASA, is to sack more staff,” he said in a statement.

“Given the rising number of errors and the potentially serious nature of some of these, we’re calling on Qantas to reverse these job cuts.’’

But the chief executive of Qantas’s domestic operations, Lyell Strambi, said the airline’s fleet of more modern planes had reduced the amount of maintenance required.

‘‘Our commitment to setting a global standard for safety and quality in airline maintenance will never change,’’ he said in a statement.

Mr Strambi said the cost of its heavy maintenance was more than 30 per cent higher than Qantas’s competitors, and the airline needed to close the gap to secure its ‘‘future viability’’.

‘‘This restructure will assist in making Qantas maintenance facilities in Australia more competitive,” he said. “Qantas will continue to make further changes to our engineering division as newer technology and improved processes enable us to become more efficient.”

A Qantas spokesman also rejected Mr Purvinas’ claims about safety.

‘‘Safety remains Qantas’ number one priority and we would never compromise on this,’’ he said. ‘‘There will be no impact on safety as a result of today’s announcement. None.’’

The airline has yet to set a timeline for when it will close the Avalon base, and centralise its engineering operations at one facility in Brisbane.

Click here to read the original article at the Sydney Morning Herald.

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