Around 250 Rex Saab 340 pilots have started to cast their votes as part of a protected industrial action ballot against the airline, over a nearly four-year-long disagreement on pay and conditions.
According to the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP), which represents a vast majority of Rex’s 280 Saab pilots, the employees will now vote on a number of possible actions, including four-hour work strikes and bans on signing in for work if less than 10 hours pass between shifts.
The ballot, conducted electronically by an external third party, opened on Wednesday 16 June and will run until midday on Wednesday 22 June.
“The AFAP remains willing to continue negotiations with Rex to try to finalise the current enterprise agreement negotiations that have been ongoing for more than four years,” a spokesperson told Australian Aviation.
“Any productive negotiations would be welcomed by our members, who pride themselves on providing a valuable service to regional Australia.”
The Fair Work Commission last week approved the union’s application to conduct the ballot over its ongoing pay dispute with Rex Airlines.
Earlier, AFAP rejected Rex’s latest enterprise agreement proposal, arguing it would result in Rex’s Saab pilots seeing “a cut in real-term salary of more than 5 per cent” over four years.
As such, the union said Rex’s Saab pilots “have been left with little option” but to apply to the Fair Work Commission, requesting permission to conduct the ballot on conducting industrial action against the airline.
Rex said the union’s actions were “beyond belief” in response, and added that its latest offer was “substantially better” than one accepted by the union on behalf of QantasLink pilots in 2021. The union disagreed and said Rex’s most recent offer was “even worse” than other offers it had previously put forward during the ongoing enterprise agreement negotiation process.
Speaking of the ballot, Rex said it was “disappointing” that the union had applied to the Fair Work Commission for permission to begin industrial action, particularly given that it had accepted a “substantially” lower salary offer for its QantasLink pilots in late 2021.
“Rex on the other hand has offered its SAAB pilots a 5.1 per cent pay rise from 1 July 2022, plus significant catch-up payments worth another 8 per cent once the business is profitable again.
“Rex is the only airline that has not retrenched any of its pilots and it has stood by them through the difficult COVID years,” Sharp added.
“We believe that they will stand by the company during this period where recovery is nascent and the company is still fragile.”
The airline also accused the union of spreading “malicious, misleading, and deceptive” information to its members regarding the latest round of negotiations.