Negotiations between Qantas and a third trade union have broken down, meaning that the dispute with the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) will now be settled independently. Last week, talks between Qantas and its pilots’ and engineers’ unions also concluded without resolution.
For Qantas however, the result is favourable. A ruling by state-run mediator, Fair Work Australia, means that none of the three unions can stage industrial action for up to four years, ending a damaging period of strike action for the airline.
“Our message to customers is that you can continue to book with Qantas with absolute confidence,” said Qantas group executive for government & corporate affairs, Olivia Wirth. “Fair Work Australia (FWA) put a stop to all industrial action over three weeks ago which meant that Qantas customers could once again book flights with the knowledge that their flights would not be disrupted by industrial action. This has seen customers return to flying with Qantas.
“The FWA ruling means that these three unions are unable to take industrial action for the upcoming period of arbitration and for the period of the EBA determination by Fair Work Australia – which could be up to four years,” she added.
It appears that this is the result Qantas was hoping for. Last week the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) accused the airline of terminating negotiations even though the union had requested an extension.
“We requested an extension of the negotiation period, however (Qantas) management refused. They obviously believe that a decision achieved through arbitration is preferable,” said AIPA Vice President, Captain Richard Woodward.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce denied the accusation. “Qantas did not terminate the negotiations today. Both parties concluded that an agreement could not be reached,” he said.
Ms Wirth also denied that Joyce had declined to appear before the Australian senate. “He is overseas on business and we are working with the Committee on suitable dates which he can appear. Mr Joyce will explain to Senators just how damaging the proposed amendments being considered by the Committee would be to Qantas, the Australian aviation industry and all Australian businesses,” she said.
Qantas and the three unions were forced into a 21-day period of mediate negotiations following the airline’s recent decision to lock out striking union members and ground the entire Qantas fleet. Prior to this, the airline had suffered months of strike action by ground staff and engineers, which Qantas said was costing it AU$15 million (US$14.6 million) per week in lost revenue.