After a marathon late night sitting, the full bench of Fair Work Australia has ordered that all Qantas industrial action be terminated, clearing the way for the airline to begin flying as soon as Monday afternoon.
Fair Work ruled that the industrial campaign by three Qantas unions – the ALAEA, TWU and AIPA – and the airline’s subsequent decision to ground all flights with immediate effect on Saturday and lock out staff from those unions from Monday would have caused significant economic damage to Australia.
“We should do what we can to avoid significant damage to the tourism industry,” Justice Geoffrey Giudice, head of the Fair Work tribunal, said.
In a brief statement Qantas CEO Alan Joyce welcomed the decision.
“This decision provides certainty for Qantas passengers,” Joyce said. “We will be getting our aircraft back up in the air as soon as we possibly can. It could be as early as Monday afternoon on a limited schedule with the approval of the regulator.”
The unions had argued that the the industrial campaign be suspended, rather than terminated, which would have allowed them to resume industrial action after 120 days should new enterprise bargaining agreements not be reached in that time. Instead Qantas and its unions have an initial 21 day period, which could be extended by a further 21 days, to reach agreement on new pay deals, arbitrated by Fair Work.
Saturday’s grounding of the airline had stranded tens of thousands of Qantas passengers around Australia and internationally.
“I apologise to all Qantas passengers that have been impacted by the industrial action by unions over the past few months and in particular the past few days,” Joyce said.