The union representing Qantas maintenance engineers, the ALAEA, has today called a three week halt to its campaign of protected industrial action against the airline.
“With immediate effect all industrial action is called off for three weeks,” a statement on the ALAEA’s website published Thursday afternoon reads. “Members are requested to accept all overtime offered. Please assist wherever possible in getting the seven grounded aircraft back in the air.”
The move appears to be a concession to losing the PR battle over its industrial campaign against Qantas, and follows another conciliation hearing before Fairwork Australia on Thursday, and warnings in the media from airline CEO Alan Joyce that industrial action by the ALAEA, plus the TWU and AIPA, threatened job security across the airline.
“Qantas cabin crew, airport staff and short-haul pilots – these are some of the innocent bystanders in this dispute,” Joyce said. “Through no fault of their own, their jobs are now being put at risk by unions that don’t represent them.”
Earlier on Thursday, Qantas group executive operations, Lyell Strambi, labelled the airline’s maintenance workers the “highest paid” in the world.
“Qantas licensed aircraft maintenance engineers are already the highest paid in the world. The union is demanding guarantees that old work practices remain in place despite new generation aircraft requiring less maintenance, less often,” Strambi said in a statement.
But while the dispute with the ALAEA appears to have cooled a little, the TWU has rejected a new enterprise bargaining agreement offer from Qantas, and will instead hold a series of stop work meetings at major airports across the country next week.
“We have tried extremely hard to do a deal and we made the union an offer that was well in excess of the recent agreement that the TWU reached with Virgin,” Strambi said on Wednesday. “We tried to compromise on a number of matters, however, we just cannot agree to all of their demands. In particular, demands that would make Qantas less efficient and compromise our ability to compete effectively.”
These latest developments in the Qantas industrial dispute crisis come as Virgin Australia has announced plans to add more capacity to the Australian domestic market in response to Qantas cutting back flights due to grounding aircraft due to its growing maintenance backlog.
Said Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti in a statement on Wednesday, “we have already put plans in place to add extra capacity over the next few weeks, including 3000 additional seats each week up to 30 October; and the addition of a fifth daily return service from Melbourne to Perth commencing 20 December adding a further 2300 seats each week.”
Borghetti also flagged bringing in extra short term capacity via alliance partners Etihad and Air New Zealand.
“We are well advanced in discussions with alliance partners Etihad Airways and Air New Zealand on providing extra capacity from November, leading into the busy December and January holiday period. We will continue to work with all of our alliance partners who are keen to help us support the Australian travelling public and ensure tourism is not affected, both domestically and internationally.”