Fair Work dismisses AIPA Qantas Jetconnect “deception” case

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 6, 2011
Qantas/Jetconnect 737-838 ZK-ZQF. (Seth Jaworski)

Fair Work Australia has dismissed an Australian and International Airline Pilots’ Association (AIPA) application to have pilots employed by Qantas’s New Zealand based Jetconnect subsidiary brought under Australian industrial laws and arrangements.

Jetconnect employs 100 New Zealand based pilots who operate Qantas’s trans Tasman 737 operations, most of whom, according to Qantas, are covered by a three year collective agreement negotiated with the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association.

“The Jetconnect pilots reside in and are based in New Zealand and their employment is subject to New Zealand employment laws. It is also questionable as to whether Jetconnect would be regarded, for the purposes of the WR [Workplace Relations] Act … as being an Australian employer,” Fair Work Australia found. “It is a New Zealand registered company with its head office and management based in Auckland. Although there was extensive evidence and argument in the present proceedings regarding the relationship between Qantas and its subsidiary company, in our view this does not satisfy the requirement … of the definition of ‘Australian employer’ in … the WR Act that it is relevantly carrying on business in Australia.”

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“The decision by Fair Work Australia is a comprehensive dismissal of the pilots’ union’s claim that the establishment of Jetconnect was to avoid Australia’s industrial laws or disadvantage Qantas pilots,” claimed Qantas group executive government and corporate affairs, Olivia Wirth.

“New Zealanders living and working in New Zealand for a New Zealand company should be subject to New Zealand’s industrial laws and agreements and not to Australia’s industrial laws.”

But AIPA said in a statement that in the two-to-one “split decision” that the “FWA bench ruled that it was unable to prevent the Qantas Group from using the hollow company to employ pilots and crew flying into and out of Australia on lower New Zealand wages and conditions.”

“AIPA has said from the start that Jetconnect is nothing short of a sham operation and Senior Deputy Drake’s [dissenting] assessment confirms that view,” AIPA president Capt Barry Jackson said.

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“Qantas management have been cynically using this hollow shell of a company to avoid awarding employees Australian wages and conditions on what are ostensibly Qantas flights.

“The whole Jetconnect operation has been nothing short of a deception. When passengers purchase a Qantas ticket and then board a plane with a flying roo on the tail, they are entitled to expect that their pilots and crew are fully-fledged Qantas employees.”

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