Qantas is flying on greed: unions

Release date: 1/04/2011

Unions have accused Qantas management of being driven by greed over the company's refusal to agree to a push for job security clauses.

Ewin Hannan and Ben Packham, The Australian

The attack came after Qantas budget carrier Jetstar was put on the defensive over revelations a senior pilot told colleagues to "toughen up, princesses" in response to complaints of fatigue on the Perth-Singapore route.

Unions yesterday attacked Qantas's announcement of cuts to flights and management jobs in response to rising jet fuel prices, saying the company was "crying poor" to justify rejecting the job security push.

The Transport Workers Union, which represents 9000 Qantas workers including refuellers, baggage handlers, ramp and catering staff, wants the airline to agree to a job security clause under which any contract struck by the airline would equal the pay and conditions of the union agreement.

It says this will remove the financial incentive for the airline to contract out work.

TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said: "If Qantas management is left unchallenged with Australia's great flying kangaroo, it looks like they'll gut, quarter and hang it.

"Qantas employees expect their employer to pay a fair and decent wage.

"If Qantas management try not to, they'll be doing it for one reason alone: greed. If they cut jobs, they should take the flying kangaroo off their planes and replace it with three big green dollar signs."

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce rejected the claims. "Is the union really suggesting Qantas is responsible for soaring fuel prices, the conflict in the Middle East and the New Zealand and Japan earthquakes?" he said.

"These are significant issues facing the whole aviation industry and have nothing to do with agreements with workers.

"It is a concern that a union official who represents 4000 of our workers doesn't appear to understand the economics of our business."

Jetstar went into damage control yesterday after a senior pilot's email admonishing the airline's pilots was tabled in a Senate committee hearing.

In the email, pilots were told "You aren't fatigued, you are tired and can't be bothered going to work" and "Aeroplanes don't make money sitting on the tarmac, they need to keep flying".

The emailer, who Jetstar said was a Perth-based "line pilot", admitted overnight flights on the Perth-Singapore route were a "horror shift".

He said in the email that when he flew the shift, he operated below his normal standards. "By trial and error, I have worked out what works for me so I can manage the shift," he said.

"I can say I hate the shift and I definitely don't operate to my normal standard. I am tired throughout the shift, feel terrible, but I would not call it fatigued."

He said he was "a pilot who hasn't lost touch with reality, and who wants to make this Perth base work".

Senator Nick Xenophon said the email raised concerns over safety and Jetstar's management culture.

"Fatigue is a serious issue and can have an impact on the ability of pilots and crews to effectively navigate a plane," he said. "The intimidation in this email is alarming and indicates there may be a bullying culture."

Mr Joyce said the Qantas group took a comprehensive approach to fatigue management to ensure pilots were ready to fly, but pilots also had a duty to manage their own tiredness.

"It's up to the pilot to identify . . . if he's not comfortable and shouldn't be flying. And we rely on that as well as the system."

Jetstar chief Bruce Buchanan said the pilot's view did not represent the management position, and it was disappointing the Senate had been "hijacked for political means or a union agenda".

"The union continues to misrepresent and seek to misinform the travelling public about Jetstar, and as a union it is not even part of our workplace arrangements," he said.

Click here to read the story on The Australian website


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