The Qantas international cabin crew have rejected a new enterprise bargaining agreement that would have imposed a two-year wage freeze and worse rostering conditions for staff.
An overwhelming 97.5 per cent of employees voted “no” against the new deal, which is argued to have been an attempt to take advantage of the post-COVID labour environment, and result in worse outcomes for staff long-term.
Over 2,561 employees were eligible to vote in the ballot, with 91.2 per cent taking part.
The Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA), which is negotiating the new EBA terms, said the deal proposed by Qantas was concerning, given how much worse-off it would leave international cabin crew.
Some of the proposed changes, along with a two-year wage freeze, included an increase in standby shifts, and an end to the payment of meal allowances in cash in foreign countries.
Instead, Qantas pushed to pay allowances directly to employees, via bank transfer and alongside other allowances, in arrears.
A report by The Australian suggests the FAAA had sought to delay the ballot until further negotiations could be made, however the Fair Work Commission gave the green light last week for the ballot to take place.
FAAA national secretary Teri O’Toole said the overwhelming result highlights to Qantas that “taking advantage of a pandemic and employees that have been stood down for 20 month was not acceptable”.
“When other professions are being rewarded with pay increases or COVID payments, international cabin crew are having conditions stripped and no recognition for the risks of COVID exposure,” O’Toole said.
The union boss said she hopes Qantas will engage in further negotiations, while Qantas executive cabin crew manager Rachel Yangoyan said the results of the vote were “disappointing”.
“The offer we put to you was fair and reasonable,” Yangoyan said in a memo to staff.
“It was also the best offer we could make especially given the devastating impact this pandemic has had on our business and the entire aviation industry.
“To be clear, the need to make changes to our business to support our recovery is real. From here, we will consider what other options remain. We will come back to you early in the new year to discuss next steps.”
In September this year, pilots at QantasLink became the first major unionised cohort within the Qantas Group to accept a two-year wage freeze in light of the effect of the COVID pandemic on the industry.
According to the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, which negotiated the new enterprise agreement, the paperwork was backdated to 2019, meaning the wage freeze period has now already passed.
As such, the 450 pilots involved will see a 2 per cent wage increase both in 2021 and 2022.