Qantas has accused the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) of running “a scare campaign” and claimed it has “continually misrepresented the facts”, as the airline looks to terminate its enterprise agreement with its long-haul cabin crew.
Qantas has applied to the Fair Work Commission to get the agreement thrown out, in what it calls its “last resort” in order to “change restrictive and outdated rostering processes”.
It comes after an overwhelming 97.5 per cent of employees, represented by the FAAA, voted “no” against Qantas’ recent proposed pay deal, which they claim would have resulted in poorer pay and worse rostering conditions for staff.
Qantas stated that this is the first time in its history that it has sought to terminate an enterprise agreement and that no job losses would be associated with the proposed termination.
The move marks the third time that the FAAA and Qantas have faced the Fair Work Commission over this new agreement alone.
While Qantas said its rejected EBA offer included a pay increase and increased allowanced, and “sought to simplify complex and historical rostering conditions”, the union and employees disagreed, and instead argue it will leave them worse off, and takes advantage of the post-COVID labour environment.
Rostering conditions under the current agreement means that around 20 per cent of Qantas’ 2,500 long-haul cabin crew, largely its widebody crew, are only allowed to work on a single type of aircraft, the airline claims, which Qantas said is “unworkable” in the current post-COVID environment.
Terminating the enterprise agreement would see Qantas’ international cabin crew default onto the current Fair Work Australia award, which will allow Qantas to implement roster changes as per the award.
The airline also said the FAAA’s counter-offer represented a $60 million cost increase for the business over four years, which it also deemed “unworkable”.
CEO of Qantas International, Andrew David, said: “Asking to terminate the current agreement is the last thing we want, but we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Our best offer, which incorporated several union demands, was rejected by 97 per cent of crew who voted.
“We’re seeking termination because we can’t effectively run our business without the rostering changes we desperately need to properly restart our international network in a post-COVID world.”
David stated that the FAAA “ran a scare campaign” against Qantas’ proposal, adding that “the union’s default position is that the company can’t be trusted and should always give more. That’s simply wrong”.
“Termination of the agreement would see crew revert to the modern award, which is the safety net for the industry, while a new agreement is negotiated,” he said.
By moving onto the modern award, international cabin crew are likely to receive smaller pay packets until a new agreement can be finalised.
“Given both the current agreement and the offer we put on the table have pay and conditions significantly higher than the modern award, we clearly don’t want to cut people’s pay,” David said.
“Unfortunately, the process doesn’t let us pick and choose which bits of the current agreement are terminated in order to get the crucial rostering flexibility we need.
“I know our people will be disappointed that it has come to this and so are we. We’re open to putting the same deal that was rejected back on the table, but that would require a change of heart from a union that has continually misrepresented the facts.”
Qantas has requested that the Fair Work Commission hearing be expedited and hopes to see progression in the coming weeks.
The FAAA has been contacted for comment.