Union targets busiest weekend to delay and disrupt customers

Sydney, 26 September 2011

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is targeting Qantas passengers on one of the busiest weekends of the year by instructing 3,800 baggage handlers, ground staff, and other Qantas employees to go on strike for one hour on Friday 30 September.

The strike is expected to disrupt the travels plans of thousands of people including football fans travelling to Melbourne for the AFL Grand Final, rugby league fans travelling from New Zealand to Sydney for the NRL Grand Final and families travelling interstate for school holidays and the long weekend in some parts of Australia.

The union has also advised Qantas that more than 50 TWU delegates will hold a two-hour stop work meeting on Thursday 29 September as part of the ongoing pay dispute.

Qantas Group Executive Olivia Wirth said the airline was assessing what impact this industrial action will have on flights and what contingency measures can be used to minimise impacts on passengers.

“This is one of our busiest weekends of the year with tens of thousands of people travelling around Australia for the football and for the school holidays on Friday alone. The union knows this and they are trying to cause maximum disruptions to passengers,” Ms Wirth said.

“These strikes hold passengers to ransom but don’t help the TWU get any closer to an agreement. We call on the union to call off the strike and return to the negotiating table.”

Ms Wirth said despite negotiations being underway on a new enterprise bargaining agreement since May, the two parties had been unable to reach a new agreement.

“The TWU are asking for 15 per cent pay increase over the next three years which is just not sustainable in the current economic climate and when these employees are already the highest paid in the Australian aviation industry,” she said.

“The union is also trying to place restrictions on Qantas which would remove our flexibility to scale up or scale down our workforce in line with busy and quiet periods.

“We value our staff and we are a generous employer. We are willing to negotiate on reasonable pay increases.”

Ms Wirth said the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association has also instructed its members to strike for one hour in the late afternoon in Sydney tomorrow and in Melbourne on Friday which is expected to cause delays for several thousand passengers.

“Over the past month, more than 20,000 people have had their flights cancelled or delayed as a result of the industrial action by the engineers’ union and the TWU,” she said.

“This is a coordinated campaign by three unions, with the pilots’ union, the licensed aircraft maintenance engineers’ union and the TWU all taking some form of industrial action over this period.

The TWU claim includes:
- 15 per cent pay increases over three years.
- An additional one per cent compulsory employer superannuation contribution every year of the agreement.
- Requirement for site rates for labour hire personnel.

“The TWU has negotiated a new deal with Virgin which is 12 per cent lower than Qantas rates and includes a wage freeze and a lower pay scale for new starters,” Ms Wirth said.

“The union is giving Virgin a competitive advantage over Qantas by agreeing to Virgin paying its staff significantly less than Qantas, and not imposing site rates.

"The TWU also wants to renege on a deal agreed only two years ago which saw the establishment of Qantas Ground Services (QGS) on a separate pay agreement, which enables Qantas Group employees to do work that used to go to labour hire companies."

Recent industrial action by the TWU

The strike by the TWU forced Qantas to cancel 28 flights and delay 27 flights which caused disruptions to more than 6,100 passengers last Tuesday 20 September.

In March 2009 the TWU took unprotected strikes for around four hours in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, causing considerable disruption to Qantas passengers. The Federal Court found in July this year that the TWU and senior officials had acted unlawfully and the TWU was fined and required to pay compensation.

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (5183)