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Qantas blasts flight attendant union’s ‘scare campaign’ in pay row

written by Hannah Dowling | January 20, 2022

A Qantas A330-300, VH-QPA msn 0553, as shot by Victor Pody

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Work Commission to get the agreement thrown out, in what it calls its “last resort” in order to “change restrictive and outdated rostering processes”.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.

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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.

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“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.

Comments (6)

  • Zlarin

    says:

    Good luck to the aircrew as my attempts to negotiate the Qantas website to cancel a trip and receive a refund less my penalty as per the fare rules have led me down a rabbit’s warren of internet tunnels without recourse to simply type a request for cancellation and refund as per the ticket conditions. Instead, I have been channeled into a system which issues vouchers with an expiry date and a refund is voided if the voucher is not used within a year of the ticket issue date. To try and use the phone is near impossible as the wait times are hours. Today’s technology is not used as other organisations allow you to leave a number so they call you in sequence rather than have you wait. I suspect the whole Qantas system is designed to thwart any attempt to receive a refund for as long as it takes. With over $8000 at stake, I am ready to go to the ombudsman. As I said, good luck as Qantas is now an arrogant beast having reduced its staff to a rump and is turning against its very own image in its crews.

  • Drew

    says:

    Okay, you say you’ve contacted the Flight Attendants’ association for comment. I keenly await their response because the article as published only provides Qantas’ side of the story.
    That over 97% of cabin crew voted AGAINST the proposed new EBA is very telling. When such an overwhelmingly high number of employees, the people who will be living and working under the new conditions, reject a new EBA, there is CLEARLY something WRONG with the offer!
    In your opening statement you write that the company claims the union has “continually misrepresented the facts”. Did you ask for examples of this?
    I look forward to hearing the cabin crew side to this story and the company’s details of where the union has misrepresented facts.

  • Tim

    says:

    “$60 million cost increase for the business over four years, which it also deemed “unworkable””!!
    I believe this very aircraft specific rostering system beast was created by your good team in the first place, as a mass cost and conditions cutting exercise some years ago. The irony!
    C’mon Mr Joyce, surely a mere $15m a year is workable when spread over 2500 staff.
    Now if I recall $60m is less than what you alone got paid in any average 4year period pre 2020.
    You tearing up your remuneration package also for a far inferior, but more “workable” one too?
    Fair is fair! Costs are costs!

  • AgentGerko

    says:

    The current management in Qantas are the lowest of the low when it comes to dealing with passengers, staff, travel agents, etc. Their only concern is keeping the share price up so that they can cash in their options. It really is time the govt stepped in to let them know they do not rule the world and cannot just get away with treating everyone else like rubbish.

  • Bob

    says:

    Wages are significant component of the operating costs which flows to ticket pricing – this airline is already charging ticket prices notably above other international carriers flying in and out of Australia.
    To those who are critical of the article claiming a one side view, perhaps you can highlight media releases where the union has made practical and genuine offers that improve the cost effectiveness of the business rather than constantly driving up costs.
    Remember TAA and Ansett – support the union if you want to see another Australian airline go the way of the dodo.
    Blind Freddie can see that the airline has done everything it can practically do to save the airline given the current circumstances.
    2 members of my family have been put out of work due to the bloody minded actions of unions that result in 2 different manufacturing sectors closing their doors in Australia under similar circumstances.

  • Aviation First Responder

    says:

    If 97.47% of the crew voted No to this agreement, it tells you a lot about how it impacts all of their ability to work and live under its terms.
    The Union ( who actually ask the crew what they need) offered countless flexibilities, including more hours of work, savings around the payment of overseas per diems, all crew operating on all aircraft types. This was actually always the case in the past, but management themselves made the decision to limit crew to particular aircraft types. This decision proved to be detrimental , especially when the A380s were grounded back in 2010, but management still refused to admit their mistake and go back to multi-endorsing crew.
    This attempt to have the agreement terminated by Fair Work and pretend it is because the existing EBA is unworkable or crew are asking for too much is just blatant money grab and has a political agenda . If they can bring everyone’s wages down ( except Management) it will circumvent the “same job- same pay” that would be introduced by a Labor Government. This agenda suits other business groups who will use it to lower the wages and conditions of countless other industries.
    Crew are first responders on the aircraft. They are trained in first aid, CPR, onboard fire fighting, defending the flight deck with their lives, and of course how to evacuate the aircraft in 90 seconds.
    For those who don’t know, the modern award pays a flight attendant virtually the same wages as working as a shop assistant. What value do you place on your safety on board?

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