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TWU offers olive branch to Qantas with praise for new chairman

written by Adam Thorn | February 21, 2024

Victor Pody shot Qantas’ second A220, VH-X4B, when it arrived in Melbourne for the first time.

The TWU has handed an unprecedented olive branch to Qantas after hailing its incoming chairman’s “earnest determination” and “open door approach” to negotiating with workers.

The union, which has had a volatile relationship with the national carrier for more than a decade, said replacing Richard Goyder with John Mullen offered workers a “glimmer of hope”.

“This is the first sign we’ve had that Qantas has finally recognised the task ahead requires a seismic shift in culture, leadership and approach to unionised workers,” said the TWU’s national secretary, Michael Kaine.

Relations between the TWU and Qantas famously broke beyond repair in 2011 when former CEO Alan Joyce grounded the airline’s entire fleet to achieve a breakthrough in negotiating a new deal over working terms.

The Gillard government subsequently took the matter to Fair Work Australia, which ordered all industrial action by both Qantas and the unions to be terminated immediately.


More recently, the TWU famously won a series of high-profile court cases against Qantas after it outsourced 2,000 roles during the pandemic, alongside a string of other litigations.

“This announcement is a glimmer of hope for workers forced into the trenches for 15 years by the dictatorial approach of the Joyce-Goyder leadership team,” said Kaine.

“Workers never relented in holding to account the brutal, irresponsible decisions to split the workforce across 38 different entities, including through mass illegal sackings. It’s a testament to their ongoing fight that the airline has been dragged to a new approach.”

He continued that the “scale of devastation wrought by Qantas with Goyder as Chair” showed the importance of choosing the right person to be his successor.

“As compensation hearings loom for the illegal treatment of a health and safety rep and the illegal sackings of 1700 workers, we need to see more signs like this that Qantas has finally seen the light and is prepared to change.”

The Australian and International Pilots Association, meanwhile, was less enthusiastic about the appointment and merely said it “noted” the new appointment.

“Mr Mullen has a large challenge ahead of him,” said president Tony Lucas. “We trust he will embrace the opportunity to work with CEO Vanessa Hudson to bring about the cultural change she has promised.”

Mullen, a former long-serving chairman of Telstra, will join the board from 1 July 2024.

It comes after incumbent Goyder bowed to public pressure to announce he would stand down in October, while Alan Joyce also left as CEO earlier than expected. The exits followed the ACCC announcing they were to take Qantas to court to accuse them of selling tickets to flights that were already cancelled.

In a statement on the ASX on Wednesday, Mullen, currently the chairman of both Treasury Wine Estates and Brambles, said he would be adjusting his other professional obligations to ensure he could be “fully focussed on this exciting challenge”.

“It’s an extraordinary privilege to take up the chairmanship of the national carrier,” he said. “It is a company that I have admired all my life, and I am greatly looking forward to helping Vanessa and the management team take the company to new heights of service and performance excellence.

“Qantas has consistently featured as one of the world’s very best airlines, and now that the pandemic is behind us and the airline industry gets back closer to normal, I have every confidence that Qantas will continue to excel. I am honoured to become a part of this journey.”

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