Qantas has been unable to reach a new agreement with its pilots’ union, and state mediator, Fair Work Australia, will now step in to resolve the ongoing dispute.
Negotiations between Qantas and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) have been deadlocked for the past 15 months, following more than 50 meetings, including 19 days of meetings with Fair Work Australia in recent weeks.
Qantas Chief Executive Officer, Alan Joyce said that while Qantas would have preferred to resolve the dispute through negotiations, he was prepared to let Fair Work Australia bring the matter to a close.
“We haven’t been able to reach a new agreement with the Australian and International Pilots Association through negotiations so we will now let the independent umpire decide,” Joyce said. “We did make some progress in negotiations with movement on both sides however in the end we were unable to reach a new agreement for our 1,600 long-haul pilots.
“We will continue to explore any opportunities with the pilots’ union to reduce the number of matters that need to be arbitrated on,” he added.
Joyce also denied AIPA’s claims that Qantas terminated today’s negotiations.
“Qantas did not terminate the negotiations today. Both parties concluded that an agreement could not be reached so the matter will be resolved by arbitration,” he said.
This contradicts the view from AIPA however. The union’s Vice President, Captain Richard Woodward, said that AIPA requested an extension of the negotiation period, but that Qantas management refused. “They obviously believe that a decision achieved through arbitration is preferable,” Captain Woodward said.
AIPA has been ordered to stop all industrial action during the arbitration period and for the term of Fair Work Australia’s determination, which will be for a period of up to four years. The union has launched a legal challenge against this decision.
Until now, AIPA’s industrial action has not included any work stoppages. The union instead states its case to passengers over the in-flight tannoy system.
Qantas claims that the main sticking points in the negotiations with AIPA is the union’s demand that Jetstar pilots earn the same and members employed with full-service Qantas. This, Qantas says, will make the low-cost unit unable to operate competitively. The pilots union claims however, that the main issue is about Qantas’ plans to offshore pilot jobs to Asia.
“This isn’t about pay and it isn’t about conditions – it’s about retaining the skills and experience of Qantas pilots in Australia. That’s the fight we will now take into arbitration,” Capn Woodward said.