Unions vow global guerilla war on Qantas

Release date: 6/04/2011

Unions are threatening to wage a campaign of "guerilla warfare" against Qantas operations around the world if the airline replaces union labour with managers in the event of a strike by airport ground staff.

Ewin Hannan, The Australian.

Paddy Crumlin, the Maritime Union leader and president of the International Transport Workers Federation, revealed the federation's executive board would convene in London next week to map out a major campaign against Qantas that could include industrial action at airports in the US, Britain, Europe and Japan.

Senior union sources described the campaign as "guerilla warfare" with action potentially including picket lines, go-slows by baggage handlers servicing Qantas flights at international terminals and union protests at check-in counters.

Accusing Qantas of "returning to the jungle" of workplace relations, Mr Crumlin said the campaign would galvanise aviation unions across the globe to take action at every airport at which Qantas operated. "The potential damage to the Qantas brand name is absolutely enormous," Mr Crumlin told The Australian yesterday.

"If they persevere with this extraordinary behaviour, this un-Australian behaviour, it will not only be damaging but disastrous for the company."

He said the campaign would be activated if Qantas brought in managers to replace striking members of the Transport Workers Union. The TWU has threatened industrial action by baggage handlers, ramp handlers and catering staff unless Qantas agrees to its claim for job security clauses curtailing the use of cheaper outside labour.

TWU's national secretary, Tony Sheldon, said the company's training of "strike breakers" at overseas locations replicated the tactics used during the 1998 waterfront dispute. "If management is so sincere that they have nothing to hide, why aren't they doing the training at Tullamarine (in Melbourne) or Mascot (in Sydney)," he said.

"Qantas management really need to come clean on who they are training, who is doing the training and why it has to be done in secret in another country.

"Scenes of men in balaclavas and german shepherds are still visible in Australia's recent industrial relations history. This situation with Qantas cannot be allowed to escalate to that level just to satisfy the insatiable greed of the few at the top."

The executive board of the ITF, whose membership covers 781 unions representing more than 4.6 million transport workers in 155 countries, will meet next Wednesday to discuss the campaign against Qantas.

Click here to read the story on The Australian website

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