Qantas cabin crew have voted almost unanimously in favour of strike action after being asked to work longer shifts and have shorter rest times.
The FAAA’s action could include strikes for up to 24 hours, overtime bans, and a “withdrawal from boarding responsibilities”, which could include staff remaining on the aircraft as passengers board the plane.
The news has the potential to cause huge disruption to the Flying Kangaroo’s plan to increase its domestic capacity to take advantage of surging demand. It could also mean potential delays and cancellations for passengers.
National secretary Teri O’Toole said the results of the poll showed how “out of touch” management were.
“Our members have languished under expired agreements for several years, while having to bear the burden of stand downs and the COVID pandemic,” said O’Toole.
“Meanwhile, the demand for travel has rebounded strongly, and Qantas is enjoying multi-billion dollar profits. Yet Qantas is asking its loyal employees, who stood by the airline through its worst days, to take pay freezes and sub-inflation pay rises while demanding massive productivity gains.”
The shift extensions planned would mean cabin crew would work for 12 hours instead of 9.45, and up to 14 during disruptions. Rest periods would also go down to 10 hours during periods of disruption when no other crew were available.
The two votes were against Qantas Domestic and Qantas Airways, and the results were 159 votes in favour vs none against, and 859 in favour and just 11 against, respectively.
Ms O’Toole has indicated her preference is for Qantas management to return to the negotiating table.
It significantly follows the airline upgrading its half-year profit forecast by an extra $150 million as consumer demand for domestic flights rises.
The news means the Flying Kangaroo is now targeting a remarkable underlying profit of up to $1.45 billion.
In a surprise statement, Qantas said on Wednesday that limits on international capacity were driving consumers to instead holiday in Australia.
“The group’s net debt is now expected to fall to an estimated $2.3 billion and $2.5 billion by 31 December 2022,” said the business in a statement.
“This is around $900 million better than expected in the most recent update, due largely to the acceleration of revenue inflows as customers book flights on Qantas, Jetstar and partner airlines into the second half and beyond, as well as deferral of approximately $200 million of capital expenditure to the second half.
“Around 60 per cent of the $2 billion in COVID-related travel credits held by the Group have now been redeemed by customers.
“Total credit usage is consistent at a rate of circa $70 million a month and new initiatives will be announced shortly to encourage full use of remaining credits over the next year.”
The airline added that low levels of net debt mean it is in a position to “consider future shareholder returns in February 2023”.
The news also comes days after it was revealed that Qantas had put much of its poor service troubles behind it and was now the best carrier in the country for cancellations.