Qantas pilots to vote on going on strike

May 26, 2011

(SYDNEY) International pilots with Australia’s Qantas yesterday prepared to vote on whether to strike, in what would be the first industrial action by the carrier’s long-haul crew in 45 years.

The pilots’ union has asked the government’s workplace relations tribunal, Fair Work Australia, for permission to hold a ballot of its members on taking action after failing to agree on pay and conditions with the airline.

‘To say that we have not taken this action lightly would be a massive understatement; Qantas pilots have not taken industrial action since 1966,’ said Australian and International Pilots Association president Barry Jackson.

He said that pilots were concerned about the future of the airline and their own job security, adding that the union was against any move by Qantas to send work offshore as it attempts to revive its non- performing international business.

‘Simply put, we believe that when someone purchases a Qantas ticket on a Qantas flight, they are entitled to a Qantas pilot in the cockpit,’ he said in a statement. ‘Whilst our international competition flourishes, Qantas has been left to wither on the vine while management eyes low-cost expansion in Asia.

‘Qantas is now left with an ageing fleet, a limited route network and costs which have been cut to the point where it is affecting the product delivered.’

A Qantas spokesman said that the carrier was disappointed at the move, which could see a ballot of about 1,700 long-haul pilots on what kind of industrial action should be taken. Mr Jackson said that this could include two-day stoppages.

The airline spokesman said: ‘We are extremely disappointed that the pilots’ union are prepared to go on strike causing significant disruptions to our customers rather than engaging in sensible and reasonable negotiations.’

Pilots have been negotiating new wages and conditions for more than eight months, and say that the issue of job security is core to their claims.

National carrier Qantas has admitted that its international business is loss making and in need of a shake-up, but has refused to confirm that it will build a new service out of Asia.

The airline is battling rising fuel costs, greater regional competition and a soaring Australian currency that is hurting holiday travel to long-haul destinations such as Australia.

The pilot’s complaints follow threats by Qantas engineers to down tools this month after their talks on pay and conditions stalled.

The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association later called off any strikes for another four weeks due to ‘some fairly well-spread reliability issues with the airline at the moment’. Qantas dismissed the comment as a bargaining ploy. — AFP

Complete article in The Business Times – Singapore

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