Qantas may be turning itself around and bringing home a bigger profit than it has for years, but some of its larger unions are far from happy.
The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has won an application at the Fair Work Commission for a protected action ballot against the Qantas/Jetstar Group.
Another big union, the Australian Services Union (ASU) says it is having difficulty bringing home to Qantas how hard some workers find it to make ends meet.
“We told management about the reality of the lives of the people who make the sacrifices at the front line for Qantas in the face of job cuts and tough working conditions,” said Linda White, ASU assistant national secretary.
“All Qantas management talked about was credit rating agency Moody’s view of Qantas and wage freezes. The disconnect between the sacrifices being made at the frontline by hard working loyal staff and fairness was staggering.”
The TWU said it applied to the Fair Work Commission “after the airline continued to refuse to compromise in talks for a new enterprise agreement.
“The move follows a resounding rejection by Jetstar employees last month of an agreement the company forced them to vote on,” a TWU statement said.
“Representatives from Qantas/Jetstar Group at the Commission did not oppose the application and said on record that the TWU had been genuinely trying to reach agreement. The Commissioner was satisfied with this and with our evidence, and therefore made the order.
“The TWU held talks with Qantas/Jetstar Group after the vote in which the Union offered further compromises to its claim yet the company simply demanded that the Union tell its membership to vote for the agreement they already rejected.
“As well as Jetstar Services, negotiations are also underway with Qantas Ground Services (QGS), where the same management is also taking the same position in negotiations with 2100 employees employed across Qantas Freight, and Qantas domestic and international. While the TWU has not applied for a protected action ballot at Qantas Ground Services, management is pursuing the same strategy as at Jetstar Services and a dispute would impact Qantas Freight, domestic and international operations.
“These are the lowest paid workers directly employed in the Qantas Group and their conditions are inferior as well,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
“They are forced onto part-time hours and are struggling to support their families. We are prepared to be reasonable and want negotiations with management which address employees’ needs along with the company’s interests.
“Just recently it was announced that Qantas/Jetstar Group is making a record billion dollar profit, while Jetstar’s half-year profits of AUD 262 million to December 2016 were larger than any full-year profits. In spite of these outstanding results Jetstar’s employees are prepared to consider an 18-month wage freeze if improvements to working conditions can be agreed,” Sheldon added.
According to the TWU, during negotiations Jetstar management:
• would not guarantee any full-time jobs
• refused to align job classifications along with others comparable in the industry
• offered a minimal towing allowance and training allowance that would not be payable to 96% of their workforce
• attempted to lock in 6-day working weeks without penalty rates for part time workers
The the ASU took the same line. “Even in the face of the largest half year profit in the company’s history, the management story of doom and gloom stays the same. But of course it would, because they want you to feel discouraged.
“It is very important to Qantas to continue to throw every reason imaginable at you about our claims. That is what they do. You have to look at their communication in this light.
“It is important to remember that bargaining always starts this way. Our biggest strength is our unity and the fact we know how the business works on the ground.
“All we want is what is fair. We know that without people, there would be no profits!”
Written by Peter Needham