Pilots’ union AIPA has claimed Qantas threatened to outsource roles if its members didn’t agree to a new enterprise agreement.
The deal, which was eventually accepted, was required so that pilots could transition from the airline’s 737s to its upcoming new fleet of Airbus A321XLRs.
Qantas strongly denies the accusation.
“While it is pleasing to see that mainline pilots have secured flying the first A321s, it is important to acknowledge the looming threat of outsourcing that hung over this vote,” said Captain Tony Lucas, president of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA).
“It may seem to some within the company that this industrial methodology is the way forward, but I hope that a more collaborative approach can be achieved in the future — one that respects the role our members play in contributing to a profitable and safe airline.
“AIPA is disappointed that Qantas would threaten to walk away from those pilots if they voted ‘no’ to the deal.
“Our pilots are and will always be ready to continue safely flying our country’s travelling public around Australia and the world.”
Qantas has denied the claim and insisted that if terms weren’t reached, it would have instead used “another entity” within the business to do the flying. “This was communicated to our pilots throughout the process,” the airline said.
Australian Aviation reported in May that Qantas’s ‘Project Winton’ domestic fleet upgrade program would begin in 2023.
The airline firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s to gradually replace its current fleet of Boeing 737 and 717 aircraft.
Qantas revealed on Monday that deliveries of its new A220 fleet are expected to begin as soon as late next year, while its A321XLRs will begin deliveries in late 2024.
It comes after the airline in December announced Airbus as its preferred planemaker for its domestic fleet renewal, in a significant blow to Boeing.
The order also includes purchase options for up to 94 additional aircraft through to 2034.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said “The A320s and A220s will become the backbone of our domestic fleet for the next 20 years, helping to keep this country moving.
“Their range and economics will make new direct routes possible, including serving regional cities better.”
Joyce said these new aircraft and engines will reduce emissions by at least 15 per cent if running on traditional fossil fuels, and even more so if using Sustainable Aviation Fuel, and brings the airline closer to its goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
AIPA’s claims of apparent threats follow the Federal Court now twice ruling that the airline’s decision to outsource 2,000 staff was illegal and in breach of the Fair Work Act.
Qantas removed internal ground handling operations in early 2021 at the 10 Australian airports where the work was done in-house, which included Adelaide, Brisbane, and Melbourne. It led to a furious response from the TWU, which eventually took the matter to court.
The resulting case, which concluded in August 2021, ruled that Qantas had violated section 341B of the Fair Work Act, which protects employees’ rights to bargain and take protected industrial action.