Qantas faces first shot from engineers

Release date: 10/05/2011

Qantas engineers are poised to fire the first shot in what may be an extended industrial battle leading to widespread delays and cancellations.

Steve Creedy, The Australian

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association members will stop work for an hour from 8am on Friday after negotiations hit what union officials described as "a brick wall".

While Qantas says Friday's stoppage is likely to cause only minor delays, the union has warned it is prepared to expand the action to include overtime bans and stoppages of up to 48 hours.

A similar six-week campaign in 2008, coinciding with bad weather, prompted consumer protests as a third of Qantas planes ran late and one in 15 domestic flights were cancelled.

The flying kangaroo also faces the prospect of simultaneous industrial action by the Australian and International Pilots Association, which could decide this week to ballot its members on industrial action, and the Transport Workers Union.

"The planets do fall in line in the case of the three unions you're talking about there, and if Qantas continue along its belligerent path there's no doubt they may find themselves in dispute with three unions at once," ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas said.

The industrial action will kick off for technical reasons with a one-man strike by ALAEA federal president Paul Cousins on Thursday afternoon. Mr Purvinas said there was still a possibility it could be called off if there were positive signs from a Fair Work Australia conciliation hearing tomorrow.

But he said the union had learnt the only way Qantas negotiated in good faith was if it had reason; and engineers were sick of seeing the industry dismantled with the closure of engine shops and the Sydney heavy maintenance facility and components nearly all maintained overseas.

"We're encountering the same problems as we did three years ago with Qantas continually coming to the negotiation table with nothing in hand."

The engineers are seeking job security assurances that maintenance of new aircraft will be performed in Australia, but Qantas is taking a hard line on any attempts by unions to have a say in strategic decisions and Qantas group executive for operations Lyell Strambi accused the union of being more interested in industrial action than genuinely negotiating for an agreement for members, and in attacking the Qantas brand to damage the airline's reputation.

"We cannot accept union demands for a veto on change which would damage Qantas, restrict our business and jeopardise the jobs of their members and all other Qantas employees," he said.

Mr Strambi said the ALAEA was misrepresenting its wage claims and the cost was 28.6 per cent over three years when restructuring was factored in. The union disputed that said it was asking for 3.14 per cent.

Click here to read the story on The Australian website

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