Qantas fly in, fly out (FIFO) pilots in Western Australia are set to strike for 24 hours on Wednesday in a bid to negotiate a new deal on working terms.
The move by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) will likely result in huge disruption for the state’s major mining companies, given that the Flying Kangaroo controls more than 40 per cent of the local sector.
The union said it’s taking the action because its members working for FIFO subsidiary Network Aviation were being paid “significantly” less than those at comparable airlines. The airline, in response, has criticised the AFAP for “refusing to engage in further negotiations or conciliation opportunities”.
Network Aviation operates more than 300 weekly flights, with regular services from Perth Airport and charter flights for mining, corporates, and emergency freight.
The strike action was announced on Friday and saw more than 99 per cent of AFAP pilot members vote to take industrial action. In total, 209 of the 211 AFAP members eligible to participate submitted a vote.
“The AFAP remains committed to reaching an agreement for our members in Western Australia who fly for Qantas subsidiary Network Aviation and is disappointed that we have had to take this action,” said the AFAP’s senior industrial officer, Chris Aikens.
Network Aviation pilots are currently paid under a 2016 agreement that expired three years ago and includes starting salaries of $175,000 for captains and $107,000 for first officers.
A new deal, rejected by pilots, would see an immediate pay rise of up to 20 per cent in the first year, followed by an annual increase of 3 per cent a year and sign-on bonuses of $7,000.
This, though, is partly funded by offsets as part of the wages policy of the larger Qantas Group.
In a letter to pilots, the business said it was disappointing that the AFAP adopted an “all or nothing” approach to negotiation.
“This position fails to consider the material benefits and improved conditions that are being made available to the NA pilot group in the proposed agreement or the need for Network Aviation to remain a sustainable and competitive business in the WA market.”
Qantas purchased Network Aviation in 2010 and operates a fleet including A320s and Fokker 100s.
The news of strike action comes following a bitter industry battle among major airlines to secure FIFO services.
In the last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has opposed Qantas’ bid to purchase all of Alliance but also denied a request for Virgin and Alliance to continue collaborating. However, it cleared a move for Rex purchase to purchase Cobham.