Unions are gearing up for a fight against Qantas, following the airlines’s announcement it plans to cut up to 1,000 jobs.
“This announcement flies in the face of all that makes Qantas great, that is its staff,” said Australian Services Union (ASU) Assistant National Secretary Linda White.
The ASU – the largest union operating at Qantas – believes a “significant number” of its members will be affected, including those that work in “safety-sensitive areas” of the airline’s operation. The union also covers airport check-in workers and freight workers.
Ms White said their members would not be “flat footed” about the announcement.
“We intend to fight this… ASU members strongly believe that what makes Qantas great is it is the spirit of Australia,” she said in a statement.
Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce has unveiled a five-year plan that aims to boost the airline’s profits and combat the company’s cost base, which he says is around 20 per cent higher than key competitors.
As part of the plan, there will be network changes to flights, older aircraft will be retired and about 1000 jobs may be lost, Mr Joyce said.
“The areas affected include management positions, pilots, cabin crew and engineering,” Mr Joyce said in a speech on Tuesday.
He said the majority of jobs lost would be voluntary redundancies, with some pilots to be offered leave without pay to take up other opportunities.
President of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, Paul Cousins, said the union’s members weren’t consulted about the move. “We’re very disappointed,” he told ABC Radio.
“They’re considering job redundancies across the network of Qantas airlines, both international and domestic, and that obviously concerns us. “We’re also extremely disappointed that Qantas continues to fund start-up airlines across the network and across the globe without actually continuing that investment in Australia.”
Mr Cousins said the union estimated job losses would start at about 150 but he expected that number to grow over time.
Although there was some relief in Qantas’ statement it would try to minimise compulsory redundancies in favour of voluntary redundancies.
“It gives us some solace that individuals that may wish to leave the business at this time will be given that opportunity,” Mr Cousins said.
“Unfortunately what it does though is cut the future out for people coming into the business.”
He said he didn’t expect there to be any job opportunities created by the new routes.
“I would say that all those job opportunities will go to the prospective inhabitants of the countries where they decide to set these airlines up and pretty much the employment status and employment conditions will be of those countries.”
NSW secretary of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Tony Sheldon, said the announcement was “spitting in the face” of Australian families.
“To announce that they are going to have a `kangaroo cull’ of the Australian workforce whilst expanding its operations in Asia is spitting in the face of Australian families who have supported this airline for so long,” he told AAP on Tuesday.
He said shareholders should be “drastically concerned” about the direction of the company
. “Qantas (is trading off its) world-wide good name (and it) will come at a price when you start off-shoring the safety, training and accountability systems to third world nations,” he told AAP
. Mr Sheldon said it would be possible for the company to expand overseas using Australian labour and continue to be extremely successful. “They do not have to be this greedy and short sighted.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) also slammed the plan and said it would investigate whether further legislative or regulatory steps to prevent the move could be taken.
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said any Qantas services that fly into or out of Australia continue to be bound by Australian workplace laws, and that Qantas employees should be employed under Australian wages and conditions, wherever they are based.
“We cannot see any need for there to be any forced redundancies from the plan announced today and we will seek to ensure that is the case at the earliest possible opportunity,” Mr Lawrence said.
Unions have also sought urgent talks with Qantas management to provide full details of its plans, he added.