Qantas warned of mid-year strikes

Release date: 29/03/2011

QANTAS is bracing for months of fraught negotiations, with union leaders threatening company-wide strikes in the middle of the year.

Felicity Williams, Herald Sun

The stand-off between the national carrier and the Transport Workers Union over labour outsourcing has intensified.

In a thinly veiled dig at Qantas chief Alan Joyce, a former executive at Irish budget airline Ryanair, TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon yesterday accused Qantas management of "Ryan-airing" the flying kangaroo.

"Over the past few years, Qantas have made it clear to the workforce that the undermining of wages and conditions, as well as job security, is part of its business model," he said.

"This has led to higher staff turnover, lower training and lower safety and security across the airline’s operations, but also drives down wages and conditions in the sector." A Qantas spokesperson said the airline rejected Mr Sheldon’s claims.

"We are concerned that a union official who represents almost 4000 of our workers is so out of touch with reality," he said. "Qantas employs 35,700 statt in Australia, 93 per cent of them based in Australia.

We have a worldwide reputation for safety, engineering and training excellence and provide generous pay and working conditions for our workers." The TWU, which represents about 9000 Qantas employees, is pushing for controversial job security provisions to be included in contract agreements.

The clauses would ensure that the contract agreements provided the same wages and working conditions as the union arrangements, discouraging Qantas to outsource work.

If Qantas refuses to agree, the union has threatened severe industrial action involving pilots, engineers, baggage handlers and refuellers in the middle of the year.

Industry analyst Brent Mitchell said consumers would ultimately pay the price if Qantas staff walked off the job for an extended period.

The strike threat could not come at a worse time for Qantas, which is grappling with soaring jet fuel costs as the conflict in Libya drives up oil prices and a sharp downturn in passengers on its Japan and New Zealand routes following recent earthquakes.

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