Qantas, unions both claim victory
Mon, 31 Oct 2011 6:00p.m.
By Australia Correspondent Samantha Hayes
Like naughty school children, Qantas bosses and union leaders have been ordered to make friends and sort out their differences – and they’ve got 21 days to do it.
If they can’t manage that, they will have matters taken out of their hands.
The warning comes as flights were ordered back into the air, after a dramatic grounding of all domestic and international planes by the airline on Saturday.
There was relief for more than 72,000 Qantas passengers as chief executive Alan Joyce announced the airline was returning to business as usual.
Flights resumed a few hours ago after an Australian government tribunal called an end to all industrial action and ordered Qantas planes back in the air.
The airline should be fully operational by midday tomorrow.
Passengers paid a huge price for this, but Qantas got what it wanted.
The clock is now ticking for both sides to reach an agreement or it will be arbitrarily decided for them.
“We had to do something that turned this around,” says Mr Joyce. “We’ve done that. It was the right decision, it was a fully supported decision and I’m very comfortable with where the airline is going to go.”
It is hoped the certainty of no further industrial action ordered by Fair Work Australia will help Qantas reverse declining passengers numbers.
The unions are claiming victory too.
“The decision today is a slap in the face to Qantas, they’re now forced to put their airline back in the air after this despicable action,” says TWU secretary Tony Sheldon.
The three unions and Qantas have 21 days to reach an agreement. If they make progress that can be extended by another 21. But if they can’t sort it out themselves, the industry umpire will impose an arbitrary agreement.
“We are determined to make sure that Australian jobs are kept within this country and that work is not outsourced for hundreds of dollars a week less – which is what Qantas is doing right at this minute as we speak,” says Mr Sheldon.
The unions want all non-Qantas contractors included in their deal, to prevent cheaper workers overseas being hired.
“Jetstar Japan will not cost one Australian job,” says Mr Joyce.
Limited flights resumed late this afternoon, but tens of thousands of passengers remain stranded.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has faced criticism for failing to use special powers to order Qantas to keep flying.
“We would have ended up in a world of legal uncertainty with the prospect of court action and uncertainty continuing for Qantas, its staff and people who rely on it to get around Australia and the world.”
Ms Gillard says getting Qantas back in the air is a win for passengers, but those who have been stranded aren’t celebrating. But shareholders think Mr Joyce did the right thing, the Qantas share price jumped nearly 7 percent in early trading.
Mr Joyce says that’s because passengers now have certainty there will be no disruptions to the busy Christmas travel season.
So it is supposed to be back to business as usual for Qantas, but it’s hard to see how that will play out – animosity between the unions and Qantas is high and playing out through the media.
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