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Unions pen letter to Attorney-General over Qantas cabin crew row

written by Hannah Dowling | February 2, 2022

Two Qantas A330s, as shot by Victor Pody
Two Qantas A330s, as shot by Victor Pody.

The Transport Workers Union and Flight Attendant’s Association of Australia have together penned a letter to the Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, urging her intervention in an ongoing dispute between Qantas and its international cabin crew.

Qantas announced last week that it had made an application to the Fair Work Commission to terminate the agreement due to “unworkable” rostering restrictions coded into the existing EBA.

The Flight Attendant’s Association of Australia later criticised the airline for making the bold decision, without first attempting mediation or conciliation with Fair Work.

In the letter, dated 1 February, the unions pled with Cash to encourage Qantas to drop its application to terminate the EBA, encourage Qantas to engage in mediation and negotiation with the unions, and “legislate to remove the ability of employers to unilaterally terminate expired enterprise agreements”.

The letter also acknowledged that the Attorney General’s office had already contacted Fair Work commissioner Ian Cambridge who is presiding over the matter about the case, in a move that the unions dubbed as “unusual”.

According to the union, the Attorney-General’s department wrote to the Fair Work Commission on Friday, seeking out information on the case, including key dates and a briefing of the hearing that took place last week.

Currently, the next set of hearings are scheduled to take place just after Easter, from 19 to 22 April, meaning the case will likely take place during the federal election campaign, unless a result can be obtained through mediation beforehand.

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TWU acting national secretary Nick McIntosh said: “We welcome the Attorney General’s interest in Qantas’s attempt to unilaterally slash pay and conditions of the workers who’ve stood on the frontline of the pandemic, brought stranded Australians home, endured two-year wage freezes, and suffered the longest stand-downs and uncertainty.

“As the largest recipient of JobKeeper and millions more in aviation subsidies, and the only business to illegally sack 2,000 ground workers and attempt to dissolve its agreement with crew in jobs that literally save lives at high altitude, Qantas management’s appalling behaviour certainly deserves scrutiny by the highest levels of government.

“The Federal government has continued to hand out taxpayer cash while turning a blind eye to the deliberate attacks on Qantas workers. We implore the Attorney General to intervene to support Qantas cabin crew, and if re-elected, abolish the termination of agreements being weaponised against workers to force them into unfair and unsafe work arrangements.”

FAAA federal secretary Teri O’Toole said: “We invite the Attorney General to meet with us and understand what Qantas workers stand to lose. Pay slashed in half is only the beginning.

“For decades we have worked cooperatively with Qantas to reach agreements that allow flexibility for the airline while enabling cabin crew to get enough rest, spend decent time with their kids between long trips away, make caring arrangements, book doctor’s appointments, or attend weddings and funerals. If this agreement is terminated, that all goes away overnight. Many will be forced to leave the jobs that have been at the centre of their lives for years.

“Qantas has refused to negotiate in good faith, but we are always ready to return to the table and resolve the few remaining issues to reach a fair agreement with safe conditions.”

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