Qantas says efforts to reach a negotiated contract settlement with 3800 baggage handlers and other ground staff have collapsed as the union representing those workers continues to raise claims that Qantas plans to outsource its workforce.
The dispute between Qantas and the Transport Workers Union was sent to compulsory arbitration before Fair Work Australia in November, alongside disputes between the airline and unions representing pilots and engineers. Talks continued, however, with Qantas and the engineers unions reaching an agreement in January.
In a statement released on Monday, Qantas acknowledged that no such agreement would be reached with the TWU and said it would be up to the labour umpire to resolve the dispute.
“For the first time since enterprise bargaining began in 1993, Qantas will have a pay dispute with a union resolved by compulsory arbitration,” the airline said.
Qantas said the TWU was demanding a 10 per cent pay hike over two years, well above the airline’s offer of a three per cent increase over three years. The union is also demanding a new pay structure and wants employees of subsidiary Qantas Ground Services (QGS) covered by the new contract, a key sticking point.
“This would prevent us from the sensible use of contractors and having a flexible workforce while our competitors are free from these constraints,” Qantas Group executive Lyell Strambi said in the statement. “The union is sticking by the claims that were central to the dispute which would see the union dictate how we run our business.”
But TWU boss Tony Sheldon said it was the airline’s determination to outsource jobs that was the key obstacle to a deal.
“Qantas have made it absolutely clear that they’ll outsource jobs left, right and centre right across this country so they can get the lowest rate of pay, the lowest conditions they can possibly get, which includes poorer training, poorer skills and it means less performance for the travelling public,” Sheldon told the ABC.