Qantas apologises to customers for union strikes

Sydney, 29 September 2011

Almost 8,500 Qantas domestic and international passengers will have their travel plans disrupted tomorrow due to unions intentionally going on strike on one of the busiest days for air travel for the year.

Qantas has been forced to delay 39 flights by up to an hour and cancel another two flights on the eve of the AFL and NRL Grand Finals and during school holidays due to strikes by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA).

The TWU will go on strike for one hour at 8am around Australia (local time in each location). The engineers’ union will go on strike for one hour at 6pm in Melbourne.

Qantas is contacting customers who were booked on flights that have been cancelled and those that have been significantly delayed. Updated flight details are available at

Since coordinated industrial action by unions began just over a month ago there have been more than 25,000 passengers affected by cancelled and delayed flights.

Qantas Group Executive Olivia Wirth said the airline would again deploy Australian-based Qantas management staff to undertake operational roles such as baggage handling and catering.

“We’re sorry that the TWU is taking their grievances out on our passengers over a pay dispute. We are doing everything we can to minimise the disruptions,” Ms Wirth said.

“This really couldn’t have come at a worse time with passengers trying to get to the AFL and NRL Grand Finals and many families heading away for the school holidays.”

Ms Wirth said despite negotiations being underway on a new enterprise bargaining agreement for months, Qantas had been unable to reach an agreement with either union.

“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.

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

“The TWU 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.

“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. This gives Virgin a competitive advantage over Qantas.”

Recent industrial action by the TWU

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

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.

Recent industrial action by the ALAEA

The ALAEA are undertaking the following industrial action:
- One hour strikes at line maintenance facilities in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane each week.
- Day long strikes at heavy maintenance facilities in Melbourne on Friday 30 September and Brisbane on Monday 4 October. Qantas will close these facilities for the day.
- Ban on licensed aircraft maintenance engineers doing overtime which creates a backlog of maintenance.
- Go-slow on day-to-day work

In 2008, industrial action from the ALAEA caused mass cancellations and delays to our customers and cost Qantas over $130 million.

In May, the union organised a one hour strike for Qantas licensed engineers across Australia only to pull the strike action at the last minute but only after customers travel plans had already been disrupted.

In June, the union took one minute strikes, banned workers from using screwdrivers with their right hand and held work stoppages with only one staff member.

In July, the union organised strikes over the school holidays but pulled them after Qantas CEO Alan Joyce wrote to the union request the strikes be cancelled in the national interest due to the grounding of Tiger Airways.

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (5189)