Sheldon rejects Qantas line

Release date: 28/11/2012

The argument over who were the winners from last year's bitter Qantas bargaining dispute continues, with TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon hitting back at recent comments made by the airline's IR manager Peter Smith about the outcome of the FWA arbitration for ground handling employees.

Workplace Express, 28 November 2012

Smith told the Workforce conference on November 16 that Qantas made a compromise offer to the TWU before the October 2011 lockout that included "wage increases and firm understandings about overtime allocation and ratios of Qantas to QGS and labour hire employees in various parts of the business".

He said the union's claims were "overwhelmingly not accepted" by FWA in the subsequent arbitration, and "the opportunities and advantages" of the compromise offer were therefore lost.

"No ratios, no understandings around allocation of overtime, none of the other extras that were in the compromise position that was unacceptable to them. The Tribunal decision is supportive of an employer's discretion to manage its business as it sees fit unless there is some demonstrable unfairness to employees," Smith said.

But Sheldon said Smith was rarely present at the negotiations prior to the lockout, and that Qantas management appeared determined to "continue repeating the mantra that TWU members would be better off if they had rolled over and gave management the green light to contract out their jobs."

"The facts remain that during negotiations Qantas offered no back-pay, no job security and stated their intention to outsource roles at hundreds of dollars less per week. The decision handed down by Fair Work Australia represented a significant win for TWU members at Qantas in terms of one year of back pay, wage increases and improved job security over the substandard offer that management put to TWU members," Sheldon told Workplace Express.

Sheldon said the airline's senior management had a "shameful record" when it came to their workforce.

"We've seen management at Jetstar flying in Thai flight attendants on international routes and then making them work on domestic Australian routes for four to seven days for as little as $400 per month – a matter for which they are currently being prosecuted by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

"We've seen them systematically undermine the security of Qantas jobs by outsourcing and undercutting their workforce with labour-hire workers and we've seen them cut over 3,300 jobs – almost 10% of their entire workforce," Sheldon claimed.

He said Qantas employees were proud of working for "what remains an Australian icon". But they were not proud of the management team, who he said had "targeted their jobs and run the business into the ground".

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