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Qantas blames unions after bypassing Aussie long-haul crew

written by Hannah Dowling | April 19, 2022

A Qantas A330-300, as shot by Victor Pody.

Qantas has blamed cabin crew unions as the reason it’s had to rely on overseas-based crew over its Australian workforce in recent weeks, while responding to rumours suggesting it is sending more Australian roles offshore.

Rumours began swirling early on Tuesday that Qantas has been using its UK and New Zealand-based crew on international flights in lieu of its Australian workforce, leaving many local workers on extended reserve rosters, in order to save cash. It was also suggested that the airline may soon be outsourcing part of its crew training functions to facilities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

However, Qantas has denied that it is sending more jobs overseas, or that any of these decisions were made based on cost.

Qantas has confirmed that it has relied largely on its New Zealand cabin crew to man some international services over recent weeks, however, the airline claims this is due to ongoing contract negotiations with its international cabin crew, which has seen both sides in stalemate. The airline also confirmed that it will conduct some training in the UAE, though denies that any roles will be outsourced.

“A small amount of flying is being done by New Zealand-based crew because the union was not prepared to support Australian-based crew working on longer routes with some of our A330 aircraft, including the Brisbane to Los Angeles route, on terms that we were able to agree to,” said Qantas executive manager cabin crew Rachel Yangoyan.

“We wanted to have our Australian-based crew do this flying, but without the union’s support for this to happen, we’ve instead had to use New Zealand-based crew on some of these flights.”

In response to this, Nick McIntosh, assistant national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said, “Qantas forced workers onto an EA that in some instances cut pay more than 40 per cent.

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“Now to blame unions for an EA they drafted, demanded and implemented is farcical. Qantas workers are the first to cop cuts when times are tough and are left behind when conditions improve.”

It comes after Qantas in January applied to the Fair Work Commission to have its international cabin crew enterprise agreement ripped up entirely due to “unworkable” rostering conditions coded into the existing EBA, which limit the types of aircraft that crew can operate on.

In response, Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia, which is responsible for negotiating the new EBA, said that the union has never had a problem with changing this aspect of the contract, however has taken issue with other parts of Qantas’ proposal.

The union earlier overwhelmingly rejected Qantas’ proposed EBA, with over 97 per cent of respondents voting “no” to the deal.

The airline also addressed crew training outsourcing rumours and stated that while it will be “temporarily” using overseas facilities in the United Arab Emirates, all training will be conducted by its existing Australian workforce.

“With Qantas’ crew training facilities set to reach capacity as we ramp up our operations, we’ll be temporarily using some additional overseas facilities in the UAE to help increase our training capacity,” Yangoyan said.

“These overseas facilities have specialised equipment that is essential to cabin crew training and all facilities available to us in Australia are at capacity.

“All of our training will be conducted by Qantas Group trainers the same as it is in Australia, we’re simply renting the building and equipment that allows us to get the training done in the timeframe we need.”

The need for such additional resources for crew training comes just three months after Qantas opened its third flight training simulator centre in Brisbane, which the airline said has the capacity to train up to 900 pilots per year.

According to Yangoyan, “The big increase in our training program is being driven by several factors:

“First, we’re recruiting hundreds of new Australian-based crew to backfill those who left the industry while international borders were closed.

“We’re also doing increased amount of recurrency training for our people who have come back after a long period of not flying.

“And we’re also upskilling crew to operate across different aircraft types, which will give us more flexibility and was one of the key changes in the new enterprise agreement.”

The airline recently announced it is on track to reach 40 per cent of its pre-COVID operational capacity on its international network in April, and was previously eyeing to exceed its pre-COVID domestic capacity figures over the Easter long weekend.

Meanwhile, Qantas continues to face increasing scrutiny for extensive delays on its customer service phone lines, as well as alleged “price gouging” on airfares purchases by customers holding flight credits.

Comments (10)

  • Doug Evans

    says:

    My granddaughter recently applied to QF for international cabin crew position and within 3 days an automated response was received saying she was unsuccessful.
    She applied to Virgin for a cabin crew position and has now had a successful first step interview moving on to the second stage.
    She completed an tourism and hospitality TAFE course and has certificate 3’s in business management and Diploma in Tourism and hospitality. A fast food chain which she currently works for saw her potential and she has progressed through the ranks to now be a store deputy manager.

  • Chris Dixon

    says:

    Qantas blames Union for not using Australian staff!
    Qantas blames passengers for airport delays!
    Qantas blames airport security staff for airport delays!
    Qantas blames sick pilots for flight cancellations!
    Qantas blames ramp staff for baggage delays!
    Qantas blames passengers for not understanding complex Qantas instituted fine print for refund delays!

    What is the common theme amongst all of these claims – blame everyone but management who have made all of the decisions to outsource staff, make pilots redundant, introduce refunds that cannot be processed etc, etc, etc!

    When will the Qantas board wake up and join the dots?

  • Lynden Kemp

    says:

    Try changing the CEO for a better Qantas and Staff Relationships perhaps??

    • Renee Jansen

      says:

      As an ex flight attendant and member of the Flight Attendants Association I can say that you are correct.

  • Mark

    says:

    Poor Qantas – lousy staff , lousy passengers – not so much “Spirit of Australia” as “Reluctantly bearing Australia” . They really seem to wish they were flying in a different country.

  • David Lee

    says:

    AJ once again blaming everyone, except himself.

  • Renee Jansen

    says:

    Heaven’s above good people. Someone working at Qantas earns $1.9million annually, so how is Qantas supposed to maintain this exorbitant salary unless it cuts costs in every conceivable corner of the business. What better way to do it than to treat paying passengers like irrelevant fools and staff like they don’t matter? If you can afford to pay someone that much money, you’d have to be earning a lot more to cover it. And that someone is regarded by some as being ruthless and in the job because he is highly skilled at researching every employment contract and agreement with relevant associations to find areas that he can exploit irrespective of how it will affect individual staff members. It’s all about the money.

  • Sam M

    says:

    Joyce outsourced the ground handling because he wanted cheap non-unionised labour. Without decent hourly pay rates, they will never recruit enough staff that STAY. Getting them is one thing, making them stay long enough to get experience is another. With the cost of living going up at every turn, in every area, is it any wonder they can’t get staff.

  • Neil Campbell

    says:

    Time for Mr Joyce to go! Blaming the Unions & replacing them with inexperienced cheap labour, and getting rid of all those hard working Baggage Handlers, Desk an information staff, letting experienced Pilots go, at the same time pocketing in Job keeper during the Pandemic.

  • Basile B

    says:

    With no aircraft purchases for QF since 2006, the fleet aged and is increasingly obvious to airline observers it is rudderless with an echo chamber of self-opinionated managers.

    Unit cost is the only focus. QF like many modern corporates count nothing outside the spreadsheet. It is painfully evident that privatisation has achieved little in terms of amenity, public service provision or efficiency. Their overpriced management achieved nothing but self-enrichment.

    “right aircraft, right route”

    All tip no iceberg, but the Chairman’s lounge memberships ensure, ASIC, CASA, ACCC, FWA the politicians and judges look the other way.

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