Licenced Engineers' Union Puts Passengers Last

Sydney, 12 May 2011

Qantas has been forced to cancel 31 flights affecting around 2500 passengers and delay another 46 flights during tomorrow's morning-peak, as a result of union-led industrial action from licensed engineers.

The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Union has instructed around 1600 members to walk off the job between 8am-9am tomorrow as part of industrial action for a new agreement on pay and conditions.

Qantas Group Executive Operations, Lyell Strambi, said the work stoppages at airports and maintenance facilities around Australia would mainly impact Qantas domestic services with only a small number of delays to international services. The strike will not affect Jetstar or QantasLink.

"Our priority is to the Australian travelling public but even with contingency plans the union will cause disruptions to our passengers. It's clear that the union leadership has constructed this industrial action to have the maximum impact on passengers," Mr Strambi said.

"We are doing everything we possibly can to get passengers to their destinations including moving passengers on to later flights and upgrading services to larger, widebody aircraft."

Qantas is contacting customers directly to discuss suitable alternatives and passengers can visit prior to travelling to get the latest information.

Mr Strambi said that Qantas could not agree with the union's unreasonable and excessive demands.

"Qantas has entered into discussions with the union in good faith and we have exhausted all avenues possible however we have been unable to make any real progress with the union," he said.

"We want to reach a fair and reasonable negotiated outcome with our workers but we will not be blackmailed by the union.

"If Mr Purvinas is serious that his claim is only a 3.14 per cent increase then we would accept that in a heartbeat but the reality is the cost of the claim is 28.6 per cent over three years, with further increased costs being incurred in subsequent years bringing the real cost to above 36 per cent."

"This comes at a time when the airline and aviation industry is impacted by a number of significant challenges including high fuel prices, a number of natural disasters and an underperforming international business.

"We just cannot accept union demands for a veto on change which would damage Qantas, restrict our business and jeopardise the jobs of their members and all other Qantas employees.

"We call on the union to stop disrupting Qantas passengers and return to come to the negotiating table to achieve a realistic outcome."

The union has also notified of further industrial action on Monday 16 May and Tuesday 17 May including work stoppages and limitations on work.

Details of the claim from the ALAEA includes:
* Wage claim and structural changes equates to between 5-6 per cent increase each year for 3 years;
* Abolition of current pay structure which rewards engineers' training and skill level to be replaced by structure which rewards engineers exclusively for the number of years they have worked for Qantas. This would automatically increase wages by 2 per cent every year for the next 10 years above normal wage increases;
* 6 weeks annual leave;
* Guaranteed staff travel (above generous existing travel benefits offered to staff) which would displace paying passengers; and
* Guarantee no change to current work practices including changes which improve efficiencies and productivity.

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (5105)