The Flight Attendant’s Association of Australia has called out Qantas’ decision to terminate its enterprise agreement with its international cabin crew without entertaining other means of negotiation or mediation and said management “should be ashamed”.
Qantas announced on Thursday that it would move to terminate its enterprise agreement with its international cabin crew as a “last resort”, in order to give the airline better flexibility in its rostering processes.
“After describing their cabin crew as heroes for flying during the pandemic and repatriating stranded Australians … Qantas has asked the Fair Work Commission to terminate their enterprise agreement, to allow the company to slash the entirety of their pay and conditions,” the association said in a statement.
“They have done this without even contemplating asking for the assistance of the Fair Work Commission to try and reach agreement, as Virgin did when their cabin crew similarly rejected an EBA,” the union said.
This all comes after an overwhelming 97.5 per cent of employees, represented by the FAAA, voted “no” against Qantas’ recent proposed pay deal.
Qantas claimed the proposed deal was fair and accused the FAAA of running “a scare campaign”, while the union said taking the deal would have resulted in poorer pay and worse rostering conditions for staff.
The union stated that the Australian cabin crew are among the “hardest hit workgroups in Australia” throughout the pandemic, after navigating 18 months of stand-downs, isolation and quarantine rules, and exposing themselves to COVID in order to repatriate Australians stranded overseas.
“The reward for crew’s sacrifice was a proposal which sought to cut conditions and impose a two-year pay freeze followed by meagre 2 per cent pay rises,” the FAAA said.
“This is likely to be a real-world pay cut, not even keeping up with inflation.”
Qantas has said that its decision to throw out the enterprise agreement was made due to the fact that around 20 per cent of its cabin crew workforce are only permitted to work on one type of aircraft under the current enterprise agreement, which the airline deems “unworkable”.
“This is simply not the case. The FAAA is willing to allow all crew to work on all aircraft, just not on the terms put forward by the company,” the union said in response.
“The FAAA has been willing to explore, and has facilitated, extensive flexibility to the company throughout the pandemic and beyond, where ‘business as usual’ flying has been largely non-existent.”
The union has said that it remains willing to negotiate with Qantas “in good faith” and hopes to see another deal that addresses the “work-life balance concerns” of employees.
FAAA federal secretary Teri O’Toole said in the nearly 35 years that she had worked for Qantas, she had “never seen anything like this”.
“Crew bent ourselves into pretzels to assist the company during the pandemic and this is the thanks their flight attendants get.
“This is a very disappointing decision, and one management should be ashamed of,” she said.
O’Toole said Qantas put its new enterprise agreement to a vote just one week after the majority of international cabin crew returned to work after being stood down for 18 months without pay.
As a result, “Ninety-seven per cent of their crew rejected the offer that would have serious consequences for their families and work-life balance with significant increases in standbys and associated instability,” she said.
“Qantas has received more taxpayer money than anyone else and now they want their employees to massively reduce pay and conditions.
“That’s not the Australia that the public should tolerate. The government needs to step in and ensure that the laws are not used to attack workers in the way that this airline is doing.”