Qantas has branded Labor Senator Tony Sheldon “frankly irresponsible” for claiming the airline is compromising safety with staffing changes.
In a withering, 1,000-word riposte, the Flying Kangaroo claimed the former national secretary of the TWU had fired off a “list of mistruths” and was following “his own agenda”.
Earlier this week, Sheldon made a series of criticism of Qantas’ treatment of staff and customers, calling the airline “mongrels” and “big corporate gorillas” putting the “sharp part of the knife through people’s workplace rights”.
It came during the week it was revealed Qantas cabin crew voted almost unanimously in favour of strike action after being asked to work longer shifts and have shorter rest times.
However, the airline, in response, said it had set up a “dedicated page on our website” to correct the claims by Sheldon.
“So far this year, Senator Sheldon has taken the time to write almost 100 tweets about Qantas. He’s launched numerous attacks in the Senate,” said Qantas.
“He’s called us to testify in front of several parliamentary inquiries he’s chaired. And he’s held press conferences to condemn how a company, which was 11 weeks from going broke during the pandemic and is now back in profit, is being run.
“Oddly, he didn’t mention the fact Qantas returned to being Australia’s most reliable airline in October. Or that we have hired and trained thousands of people into well-paid careers over the past six months.”
“One claim was that Qantas is cutting people’s pay by up to 40 per cent. That is absurd when we’re offering pay rises of 3 per cent and the opportunity to secure bonuses of up to $11,000 per employee for their part in our recovery.
“Another was that we’re not investing in our fleet – despite the fact we have a new aircraft arriving almost every month.”
The page, which you can read here, refers to Sheldon’s claims and what it says is “fact”. It says some of these accusations are “simply not correct”, and workers would be paid “more, not less”.
Qantas and Sheldon have a long history of bad relations, going back to his time as national secretary of the TWU.
In March 2021, the rivalry was reignited when Qantas CEO Alan Joyce skipped an appearance before a Senate committee in part chaired by Sheldon.
“Qantas is not Alan Joyce, and certainly isn’t the three of you,” said Sheldon, who also accused the business of having a “cavalier” approach to its workers.
“The way this company has approached those individuals is an outrageous consideration after the billions of dollars we’ve given in support as a community as taxpayers to this airline,” he said.
“I don’t begrudge that support at all. What I begrudge is how you’ve used it, and the lack of responsibility that the company has taken for the way that they’ve approached these workers.”
Last week, the FAAA voted in favour of industrial action that could include strikes for up to 24 hours, overtime bans, and a “withdrawal from boarding responsibilities”.
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.