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Qantas locks out workers
October 29, 2011 12:08 AM   Subscribe

In response to industrial action over wage disputes with 3 unions - aircraft engineers, baggage handlers, and other ground staff - Qantas has announced that it is grounding its international and domestic fleet immediately and indefinitely.
posted by Pinback (125 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's an old-fashioned lockout, an unbelievably cynical act. I hope the Government re-nationalises the whole airline.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:17 AM on October 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


"We are locking out until the unions withdraw their extreme claim and reach an agreement with us," Mr Joyce said.

The airline is fighting with its pilots, ground staff and licensed engineers over pay, conditions and the outsourcing of jobs overseas.

Unions were left furious after the AGM overwhelmingly voted for a $2 million pay rise for Mr Joyce.


Paying yourself an extra 2 million a year while deriding a desire of staff to keep their fucking jobs? Fuck you, Joyce. Fuck you.

(It's worth noting that Qantas, historically the safest major airline in the world, started outsourcing maintenance and engineering to the lowest bidder a few years ago, and has had a succession of uncharacteristic high-profile near misses. Maybe flying in planes services by the lowest bidder isn't such a hot idea...)
posted by rodgerd at 12:19 AM on October 29, 2011 [52 favorites]




I have a Jetstar flight to Phuket on Saturday, and I nearly broke down when that story appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

As far as I know, the Jetstar fleet has not been grounded, and is not at risk of being grounded, but either way I will never be flying with QANTAS or any of its subsidiaries again. Neither will anyone I know who currently holds tickets with them.

I honestly don't understand how putting their customers in this position could be in the airline's best interests.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 12:33 AM on October 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Airlines are so important in Australia, as it is the only way in and out (boats are unfeasible at this point in time), and as a vital part of the infrastructure, should be nationalized.
posted by PinkMoose at 1:17 AM on October 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fucking Australians...trying soooo hard to be like Americans.

Just put on your Ronald Reagan hat and call it a day, will ya?
posted by hal_c_on at 1:19 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Never fuck with a baggage handler.
posted by mannequito at 1:22 AM on October 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Boo hoo hoo. Taking my marbles and going home.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:24 AM on October 29, 2011


It's an Australian Mexican Standoff.
posted by longsleeves at 1:30 AM on October 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


"They are deliberately destabilising the company and there is no end in sight."

"They must decide just how badly they want to hurt Qantas, their members ... and the travelling public," he said.

What is deceptioneering? I'll take Capitalist Bullshit for six hundred.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:35 AM on October 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


Airlines are so important in Australia, as it is the only way in and out (boats are unfeasible at this point in time), and as a vital part of the infrastructure, should be nationalized.

Qantas was...then it was privatized.

Just for the record, it was the CEO who made this decision. The CEO who's on $5 million a year. The CEO who received, only yesterday, a 71% pay rise.
posted by Jimbob at 1:42 AM on October 29, 2011 [11 favorites]




Alan Joyce should have said no to a pay rise this week.

I know this isn't the issue, but would you?
posted by doublehappy at 1:51 AM on October 29, 2011


I know this isn't the issue, but would you?

I was just having a train of thought in the car earlier...

"What would it be like to be on $5,000,000 a year? You could go to the bank and apply for a mortgage and they wouldn't say shit to you... Although, maybe if you're Alan Joyce, they'd say 'Sorry, we don't believe your current employment situation will be continuing long into the future...'"
posted by Jimbob at 1:54 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Crap, the husband is flying out for work from Christchurch to FLA tomorrow on Qantas...or was, anyway.

Their delightful press statement regrets any inconvenience caused by this "damaging union action".
posted by tracicle at 2:03 AM on October 29, 2011


AAAAH! AAAAAH! AAAAH!
/rainman
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:07 AM on October 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Jesus, if you made $5M a year, why would you even need to take out a mortgage? I suppose at that point you'd be expected to buy some kind of super enormous house proportionate with your income, but fuck that.
posted by kmz at 2:14 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's clearly their intended talking point, tracicle. Damaging union action my arse. Qantas have already been losing the PR battle. A poll last week found the majority of Australians blame management, not unions, for disruption. Seriously trying to figure out what they hope to gain from this.
posted by Jimbob at 2:18 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You say "rise" when we would say "raise". Huh.

If you make $5mil you might get a mortgage largely as a strategy; I imagine there is some strange rich person way to use them to hedge against risk or make a profit.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:19 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hit post too soon.

This CEO is amazingly brazen. Thanks for posting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:22 AM on October 29, 2011


Yeah, clearly taking a pay raise to represent your general success shitting on your workers isn't going to play in Peoria (or its Aussie equivalent), but details like this, if true, make it an untenable position for the airline:
“The union is still demanding significant pay increases and guarantees that old work practices remain in place despite new generation aircraft requiring less maintenance, less often."
I'm not sure who's supposed to do what here: Is the airline supposed to employ people for maintenance hours when the planes no longer require them? Are they not supposed to purchase more efficient planes that require less maintenance? Is Boeing not supposed to consider maintenance efficiency in their considerations for their newer aircraft?

By performing work-to-rule and kneecapping their ability to keep their schedule operating, Qantas is throwing down and grounding everything. It's a lockout, and it's a harsh move, but if the alternative is nothing but random groundings and worsening maintenance backlogs, it might be an effective strategy.

Moreover, if the following is true, I'm not sure I automatically side with the unions here. They're asking for:
- Around 15 per cent increase in wages and allowances over three years. The remuneration package of the average licensed engineer would be around $170,000 in January 2013 if we agreed to the ALAEA’s claim.
- A guarantee that no changes be made to current work practices including changes which improve productivity or that are in line with developments in modern aircraft technology.
- Introduction of a time serving classification structure where workers receive additional pay increases based on years of service rather than merit or qualifications.
I know the cost of living in Oz can be quite high, but $148,000 AUD (~$158,000 USD) seems like a damn decent wage already...

Either way, from a PR perspective, and with good common sense, voting in a massive raise to your CEO right now is an idiotic idea. But demanding that union leaders be put in charge of certain parts of the business seems completely insane to me, as do the other demands listed above...
posted by disillusioned at 2:23 AM on October 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Qantas are in a difficult position - they have been needing more and more capitalisation for constant annual profits, gradually dragging them back to the typical airline situation (ie money-sink). If they continue on this path eventually their shares will no longer be 'investment grade' and each round of recapitalisation will be more painful than the last; they clearly see the writing on the wall and are looking to transition to the only known viable airline model "ultra-budget carrier" while monetising their brand as well as possible...
Is it all bullshit? Yes.
Can I blame them, really? No.
posted by overyield at 2:32 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That wage for engineers does sound impressive, but they aren't the only ones involved in the dispute. I doubt baggage handlers and other ground staff are making six figures.

An Essential Research poll just out shows that Australians favour the government buying back Qantas 43-34%.
posted by Jimbob at 2:32 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's a good comment disillusioned. There seems to be unreasonable greed on both sides of this dispute. It's stuff like this that give management and unions a bad name. Obviously neither side gives a damn about their customers.

Are there alternatives to Quantas? Or have the management and unions prevented any competition from interfering with their feathered beds?
posted by three blind mice at 2:35 AM on October 29, 2011


Virgin is pretty good. It flies to most of the same destinations that QANTAS does.

And VirginAustralia has offered discounted fares to stranded QANTAS passengers.
posted by PercyByssheShelley at 2:38 AM on October 29, 2011


This just in: it's all just a big conspiracy to prevent stephen fry leaving the country.

There are alternatives, three blind mice. Virgin. Jetstar (a Qantas subsiduary). Tiger. They are all "budget" airlines who don't have much extra capacity when Qantas goes batshitinsane.
posted by Jimbob at 2:42 AM on October 29, 2011


Are there alternatives to Quantas? Or have the management and unions prevented any competition from interfering with their feathered beds?

There are domestic and international alternatives, but there are no alternatives which are *both* domestic *and* international. Also, Qantas has a huge proportion of all Australian travel - I wouldn't be surprised to hear that it's around 50%. There's definitely nothing like the necessary slack in the system to cope with this.

Qantas has been incredibly successful at preventing international airlines carrying domestic passengers. United Airlines, for example, flies from Melbourne to Sydney with an almost-empty plane (literally perhaps twenty international passengers on a 747) and then fills up with passengers flying Sydney-LA. If they could pick up domestic passengers in Melbourne and drop them off in Sydney they'd make a lot more money. The seats are just empty; they could sell them as $100 walk-up fares and make a killing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:06 AM on October 29, 2011


Qantas is kind of the General Motors of Australia. Their business is fucked by peak oil, they just don't all realise it yet.
I understand the union guys, I totally would be on strike if they outsource jobs, but it is true those guys on strike have some of the best pay and conditions in Australia for mechanics work. (things like free/discount flights and long term benefits in retirement).
If I am management, I am in a hard position because other airlines have gone broke, and disappeared, to be replaced by low cost new alternatives (see almost every euro national carrier and ryan air/easy jet) which operate cheaper thanks to tax law and union busting.
But of course, Qantas management are a bunch of pricks of the highest order, so there should be no sympathy in their direction.
Which leaves the shareholders, who should by now know it is going to be a continuing painful investment - so sell.
As the Ansett ex-employees know, it does no good to be working for an ex-airline, so there needs to be some balance.
Personally, I'd like to see the staff super fund make a play for a private equity take over - that would be interesting.
Which leaves the punters - I have a lot of Qantas frequent flyer points thanks to a previous job, but I will only fly with them under duress - I reckon you should avoid them like the plague.
posted by bystander at 3:09 AM on October 29, 2011


My thoughts:

QANTAS probably previously asked the Government to intervene - get Fair Work Australia to rule against the workers but keep them happy with a "industry restructuring" package of some sort of another that will allow QANTAS to shift its maintenance operations off-shore in accordance with its business plan. Government declined because it doesn't want to wade in to this mess and doesn't want to spend the money. QANTAS has now forced the Government's hand, and things will now progress as originally planned.
posted by kithrater at 3:31 AM on October 29, 2011


Bystander raises some fair points, although i'd avoid private equity unless, you know, they want Qantas to be torn to pieces and sold for scrap. I also only fly Qantas under duress. Don't see the point in paying 3-4x the price in order to be given a plastic bowl of Corn Flakes for brekkie. I took that SYD-LAX flight on United a month ago. Very impressed with it compared with the equivalent Qantas flight, as I was with United's domestic operations in the US.
posted by Jimbob at 3:33 AM on October 29, 2011


Qantas made this move in order to force government intervention to end the workers' industrial action. That action was a nuisance, but it wasn't disruptive enough to really damage the economy, so Qantas had to take it to the next level.

Sure enough, the Government has called for an urgent hearing before Fair Work Australia (scheduled for 10pm tonight), at which it will make an application under section 424, for the termination of protected industrial action that "has threatened, is threatening, or would threaten... (d) to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it."

The Minister could have simply made a declaration ending the lockout (s 431), but it won't want to be directly responsible when there's an industrial umpire there to take the flak if things go pear-shaped. And a swift FWA decision to end the threatened disruption of the lockout would allow the government to show how the new system works, despite what the pro-WorkChoices spruikers in the Coalition claim.

But the question is, who wins if neither side can take industrial action? The battle shifts from the workplace to public relations, and that will be an interesting fight.

I haven't got any real sense of outrage from the travelling public as a result of the relatively minor disruption caused by the union action so far. But Alan Joyce's 71% pay rise the day before he threatens to take all planes out of the sky is generating real anger.

And as more information comes out about the premeditation - big hotel room bookings made early in the week, Sydney-based management being deployed around the country, that sort of thing - the idea that Qantas pulled this stunt without giving notice to either its shareholders, the government or, most importantly, the travelling public, will not go down well.

And in those circumstances, having already played its trump card, if Qantas doesn't move in negotiations, it will have trouble convincing people that further strikes are unnecessary.
posted by robcorr at 3:47 AM on October 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


I guess this is what happens when you have a monopoly. I figured that out as a child by playing a board game, but it apparently has the Australian Government scratching their heads.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:59 AM on October 29, 2011


(It's worth noting that Qantas, historically the safest major airline in the world, started outsourcing maintenance and engineering to the lowest bidder a few years ago, and has had a succession of uncharacteristic high-profile near misses. Maybe flying in planes services by the lowest bidder isn't such a hot idea...)

But near misses in aviation tend to be caused by human error -- either pilot or air traffic controller. Were these high-profile near misses related to equipment shortcomings?
posted by JimDe at 4:00 AM on October 29, 2011


JimDe: A little of both. The pilots got nervous when they looked down and noticed the Xbox steering wheels.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:03 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Friend noted elsewhere that the union is obliged to give three days' notice of action, but the company can seemingly pull this shit any old time regardless of people's travel arrangements.
posted by Abiezer at 4:15 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I kinda think the pay increase is reasonable ... the CEO, in order to fix the cancerous rot that is deeply embedded within the organisation, must take action which will make him the most unpopular person in Australia. He expects to be remunerated appropriately for the absolutely shit job ahead, the very real personal danger he and his family may be in, and the fact that tis will limit his future employment prospects significantly.

I'd demand a ton of cash for that too ... or I would walk and let them sort the mess out themselves
posted by jannw at 4:18 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Moreover, if the following is true, I'm not sure I automatically side with the unions here. They're asking for:

- Around 15 per cent increase in wages and allowances over three years. The remuneration package of the average licensed engineer would be around $170,000 in January 2013 if we agreed to the ALAEA’s claim.
- A guarantee that no changes be made to current work practices including changes which improve productivity or that are in line with developments in modern aircraft technology.
- Introduction of a time serving classification structure where workers receive additional pay increases based on years of service rather than merit or qualifications.

I know the cost of living in Oz can be quite high, but $148,000 AUD (~$158,000 USD) seems like a damn decent wage already...

Either way, from a PR perspective, and with good common sense, voting in a massive raise to your CEO right now is an idiotic idea. But demanding that union leaders be put in charge of certain parts of the business seems completely insane to me, as do the other demands listed above...
posted by disillusioned at 2:23 AM on October 29 [2 favorites +] [!]


Quick question about where you're getting this information - if it's from QANTAS management's press releases obviously it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In any case 15% over 3 years is a decent increase, but not that much above inflation at the moment. And while it's a good wage, I'd prefer if the people tasked with making sure aeroplanes didn't suddenly fall from the sky were paid well.

Full Disclosure: I missed one of those 'near misses' a year or two back by a day, i.e. I was on the equivalent flight the day before.

Even Fuller Disclosure: I'm a member of an Australian union, so there's a certain amount of solidarity informing my opinion.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:19 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, unions must give at least 3 working days' notice of industrial action - but employers just have to notify people with no advance notice required. (s 414)
posted by robcorr at 4:19 AM on October 29, 2011


the very real personal danger he and his family may be in, and the fact that tis will limit his future employment prospects significantly.

I'd demand a ton of cash for that too ... or I would walk and let them sort the mess out themselves
posted by jannw at 4:18 AM on October 29 [+] [!]


Oh come on, there is absolutely no suggestion of any threat of harm being done to his person or his family. And at this point it looks like any threat to his future employment prospects are entirely a result of his own actions, i.e. the allegation that this was pre-meditated
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:23 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


So Qantas announces intentions to outsource jobs, hands management raises of 37 to 71%, and then pleads poverty? Then they have the nerve to trash their workers in the media? Then they they lock them out?

PR ability displayed: 0.
Management ability displayed: 0.

In a righteous world, this would blow up in their faces. Fingers crossed.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:24 AM on October 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


For those hanging onto their (undersized) seats, wanting to know what comes out of FWA tonight,Amelia Marshall is there.
posted by Jimbob at 4:26 AM on October 29, 2011


I'd demand a ton of cash for that too ... or I would walk and let them sort the mess out themselves

If the options are paying a CEO massive amounts to break a union or having everyone sit down and negotiate around the table like adults, I'll take what's in the second box, please.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:28 AM on October 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'd demand a ton of cash for that too ... or I would walk and let them sort the mess out themselves
Yes, unions have a strangle hold over Australia. Can I buy a house back in the 1978 you're living in too?
posted by bystander at 4:39 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


They need Hawkey to sort this sucker out.
posted by taff at 4:42 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be clearer. I think the union staffers, the management, and the shareholders are all going to be less affluent over time, as this business is at the cutting edge of declining world prosperity (mainly because of energy prices, but also its high capital costs). Any of those three hoping to get off scot free at the expense of the others has my derision.
Those who are prepared to sit down and talk about building a sustainable business in the face of massive threats have my admiration. Note nil admiration given to date.
posted by bystander at 4:43 AM on October 29, 2011


Poor widdle CEO.
posted by spitbull at 4:45 AM on October 29, 2011


I'm feeling a Patrick Stevedores coming on. Fare thee well Qantas. It was lovely while it lasted.
posted by taff at 4:50 AM on October 29, 2011


Yes, unions have a strangle hold over Australia. Can I buy a house back in the 1978 you're living in too?

I am always so amazed when I see this argument, because it's just not fucking true. Union membership in Australia was higher in 1978 than it it is today - by a long shot.

Here are some old numbers. (Union membership is smaller still, today)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:00 AM on October 29, 2011


Hey, at least if the company implodes now they will be able to keep their perfect safety record intact forever more.
posted by adamt at 5:00 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The hearing is under way. Government witnesses gave (undisputed) evidence of the serious damage a lockout would do to the economy. Now the lawyers for various interested parties (Qantas, the unions, the Cwlth gov, and possibly the NSW and Vic govs) are now arguing about what should happen.

Qantas's lawyer is first up, and complains the airline was dragged in at short notice. As if that wasn't it's entire strategy.
posted by robcorr at 5:07 AM on October 29, 2011


Moreover, if the following is true, I'm not sure I automatically side with the unions here. They're asking for:

- Around 15 per cent increase in wages and allowances over three years. The remuneration package of the average licensed engineer would be around $170,000 in January 2013 if we agreed to the ALAEA’s claim.
- A guarantee that no changes be made to current work practices including changes which improve productivity or that are in line with developments in modern aircraft technology.
- Introduction of a time serving classification structure where workers receive additional pay increases based on years of service rather than merit or qualifications.


It's worth remembering that, when a labor contract is being negotiated (even in good faith), both sides tend to come to the table with extreme demands because they expect to be bargained down. If you hope for a 6% increase over 3 years, coming to the table with 6% is likely to result in having to accept less. High numbers and "unreasonable" demands at the start of negotiations may just be staking out room to maneuver.

Demands without context are kind of meaningless. Of this is how it's worked in the negotiations I have watched.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:15 AM on October 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I should note there is a small chance the lockout will be ended but the employees' action (which doesn't threaten the economy) will be allowed to continue. It seems the fear of that outcome is what prompted the NSW and Vic governments to intervene, as their counsel simply adopted Qantas's position that both sides should have their action terminated (and not just suspended either).

The Pilots are arguing that Qantas has pulled a stunt, and that at worst the union action should be suspended. Qantas shouldn't be rewarded for threatening the economy.
posted by robcorr at 5:17 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's called blue-sky bargaining. It's a time-honored technique, and the only way to get what you want. Democrats should learn how to use it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:17 AM on October 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow, what an odd move. Someone's just lost the PR war, and it ain't the unions.

I flew Sydney to Melbourne on a flight that was meant to leave at 830PM, ended up taking off at 1010PM - all day people were saying that I might be unlucky. Got to the airport the Qantas terminal was a ghost town - for Friday night - it's usually a zoo. Kinda eerie.
posted by the noob at 5:19 AM on October 29, 2011


It's called blue-sky bargaining.

We call it "ambit claims".
posted by robcorr at 5:22 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I took that SYD-LAX flight on United a month ago.

That's the interesting thing isn't it? We're all in solidarity with the unions or what-have-you but goddamned if I'll fly QANTAS for anything on my own dime, and Virgin, Jetstar, United or whomever else basically have jack shit in the way of unions or good working conditions. That's certainly part of why they're cheaper. So I suppose I'm all pro-union until I have to pay for it for myself, then I'm happy to fly on the exploitation of others... Not a great feeling. :(

That all said, Joyce is still a total bastard, and having the gall to blame the unions for his own decision is nauseating. He might win the battle, but QANTAS will lose the war.
posted by smoke at 5:23 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


The engineers' lawyers submitted their protected action should be left undisturbed.

That's the real fight. The lockout was foredoomed, but will Qantas succeed in having the workers' action banned too?
posted by robcorr at 5:27 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fucking hate Qantas with a passion I reserve for Telstra and the Commonwealth bank. They are the meanest of the mean spirited companies, I much prefer flying Virgin, there's no pretense, it's just a bus.
posted by the noob at 5:30 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The engineers and the TWU say they had no industrial action planned, which makes a lockout of their members pre-emptive and therefore illegal. (Employers cant lock out workers simply for being members of a union, it has to be in response to industrial action.) TWU says no orders should be made tonight.
posted by robcorr at 5:31 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


ACTU lawyer stresses that the disruption was caused by the lockout, not the union action, so the orders should be against Qantas and not the unions.
posted by robcorr at 5:33 AM on October 29, 2011


Apparently some of the leaders of states here for the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) were supposed to be flying out of Perth tomorrow on QANTAS, not to mention all their staff, and journalists as well that also might have been. It's hard not to see this as a massive middle finger being given to the federal government.

Re: NSW and Vic state governments - given that they are both liberal-national coalition governments it's not surprising that they're siding with QANTAS, as this whole episode is giving the federal opposition ammunition to target the government.

Robcorr - thanks for the updates from the hearing, much appreciated.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:39 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


In reply, the Commonwealth argued that the wording of the section meant all action must be terminated. (I disagree.)

FWA has adjourned to consider its decision.
posted by robcorr at 5:43 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Predictably, the un-Australian card just got played. Well yeah, Joyce is Irish.
posted by unliteral at 5:45 AM on October 29, 2011


The judges are out but said they'll be back tonight.
posted by unliteral at 5:47 AM on October 29, 2011


I'll tell you why I disagree. S 424 requires FWA to suspend or terminate damaging "protected industrial action".

S 408 says:
Industrial action is protected industrial action for a proposed enterprise agreement if it is one of the following:

                     (a)  employee claim action for the agreement (see section 409);

                     (b)  employee response action for the agreement (see section 410);

                     (c)  employer response action for the agreement (see section 411).
Note the key words "one of", which seems to prevent employee and employer action being lumped together.

So, if FWA decided the employee claim action did not threaten the economy, but the employer response action did, it would only be required to suspend or terminate the latter.
posted by robcorr at 5:50 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joyce is Irish.
Perhaps this is all a commodius vicus of recirculation?
posted by Abiezer at 5:52 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


So I suppose I'm all pro-union until I have to pay for it for myself, then I'm happy to fly on the exploitation of others... Not a great feeling. :(

Yeah I know. I have the same conflict. I support the staff in this dispute, I support the unions, but I haven't had very nice things to say about Qantas staff in the past. Flying Virgin is a joy. Flying Qantas is an exercise in futility and rage. My justification is that maybe they are all painful, grumpy pricks because of the conditions they're forced to work under.

In terms of United, I was just extremely impressed with out they went out of their way to accommodate passengers in such an efficient manner. At every gate, in every airport, they had screens listing the passengers due for an upgrade, listing the passengers waiting on standby - does Qantas even do standby? I was in Santa Barbara airport, and asked if it was possible for me to get on standby for an earlier flight to San Fransisco, because I was worried about missing a connecting flight. The guy at the counter was extremely helpful, printed me out some new tickets, I went to the gate, and was boarded on an earlier flight extremely easily. He even upgraded me to a "premium economy" seat, at no charge, for the flight back to Australia - I didn't even ask for it, he just put it on the ticket. Meanwhile, Qantas has taken up the practice of charging you extra to sit in the exit row. They charge like a premium airline, then charge like a budget airline for all the upgrades as well. United let me check in 2 bags. I got back to Sydney, went to check in my 2 bags with Qantas, and was told I'd have to pay extra. 2 bags used to the the standard on premium airlines. If you're flying Tiger, you know they're going to rape your credit card at every opportunity, but I always figured the reason you fly Qantas is because they offer some bloody service. Not anymore, it seems. That's why I love Virgin, I'll accept Jetstar at a pinch. Tiger have messed me around too much, and they deserve to die a slow, painful death. Anyone arrived in Melbourne on Tiger and experienced their concentration camp arrivals shed? Damn.
posted by Jimbob at 5:53 AM on October 29, 2011


My wife worked for Qantas for 7 years. I dislike them intensely. It's a brutal business, but they way treat their employees is shit and their service culture is (generally, not always) pathetic. She and I went elsewhere to live for a year and when we got back they were keen to engage her on a substantially higher salary than she received previously.

Nope, not interested.
posted by Wolof at 6:01 AM on October 29, 2011


Just put on your Ronald Reagan hat and call it a day, will ya?

The Prime Minister-in-waiting (calling him a mere opposition leader doesn't adequately convey the imminence of his assumption to power), Tony Abbott, will almost certainly make Reagan look like a Swedish social democrat by comparison. Abbott has announced only one policy plank: repealing the carbon pricing scheme, and the rest he's not sharing with the public until after the election. My guess is that Abbott's Australia will look somewhere between Rick Perry's Texas and Pinochet's Chile.
posted by acb at 6:09 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Abbott has announced only one policy plank: repealing the carbon pricing scheme

Labor needs to hammer this hard. Repealing the CPRS means (a) reducing pensions (b) decreasing the tax-free threshold (c) increasing taxes on all Australians to pay for his "direct action" plan. I don't believe he's got the gonads to do it. He's either a liar, or a bastard. Or, probably, both.
posted by Jimbob at 6:15 AM on October 29, 2011


Best case scenario for the Qantas workers: no interference with their industrial action, and the lockout is suspended but not terminated.

That's because termination would impose a 21 day limit (266) before compulsory arbitration, and a lot of their job security/outsourcing concerns are not "matters pertaining" (172(1)(a)-(b)) that can be arbitrated. They need industrial action and common law contracts to achieve those goals.
posted by robcorr at 6:15 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWA wants to hear evidence from Qantas. Not clear whether they'll start now or wait until the morning.
posted by robcorr at 6:18 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand all this lawyering stuff, but for years I've been thankful we have robcorr here to try to explain it all.
posted by Jimbob at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


"I've been to cities that never close down" - Qantas choir.
posted by unliteral at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apparently 3 Qantas witnesses to be called. This suggests to me that the FWA is not satisfied that the link between the union industrial action and the damage to the economy has been shown. They want to hear more about how the union action impacted Qantas, to join the dots (or not) between the union action and the lockout/grounding.

The cross-examination will be fascinating, not only as to the proportionality, but as to when and how the lockout plan was developed. Under oath.

... And executive Lyell Strembi is giving evidence about needing access to "cheaper labour".
posted by robcorr at 6:30 AM on October 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


From ABC News: Qantas defends Joyce pay raise

But the hot-button issue remained Mr Joyce's pay rise, with the board booed, hissed and mocked as it tried to defend the management of the airline and wages for the board.

Despite the industrial dispute, Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford says the pay rise for Mr Joyce is justified.

"I think we all know what the world has gone through and airlines in particular over the last couple of years and I frankly think the CEO and management team have done a very good job," he said.

posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:52 AM on October 29, 2011


I frankly think the CEO and management team have done a very good job

So, it's Qantas policy to give all employees who do a "very good job" a 71% pay rise, then?
posted by Jimbob at 6:54 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, it's Qantas policy to give all employees who do a "very good job" a 71% pay rise, then?

Well, you know, some people have to make sacrifices. Times are tough.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:57 AM on October 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sure enough, the Government has called for an urgent hearing before Fair Work Australia (scheduled for 10pm tonight), at which it will make an application under section 424, for the termination of protected industrial action that "has threatened, is threatening, or would threaten... (d) to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it."

Seems like they're taking a page from Stephen Harper's playbook.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:21 AM on October 29, 2011


I propose Qantas adopt "Who Needs U?" as their new slogan, as it illustrates both the proper spelling of the brand name as well as the company's attitude towards almost everybody.
posted by Spatch at 7:34 AM on October 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Moreover, if the following is true, I'm not sure I automatically side with the unions here. They're asking for:
- Around 15 per cent increase in wages and allowances over three years. The remuneration package of the average licensed engineer would be around $170,000 in January 2013 if we agreed to the ALAEA’s claim.
- A guarantee that no changes be made to current work practices including changes which improve productivity or that are in line with developments in modern aircraft technology.
- Introduction of a time serving classification structure where workers receive additional pay increases based on years of service rather than merit or qualifications.
I know the cost of living in Oz can be quite high, but $148,000 AUD (~$158,000 USD) seems like a damn decent wage already...


Licensed aircraft engineers are a damn sight better trained than your average grease monkey, work twelve hour shifts on a rotating schedule at all hours of the night and could probably make just as much money if not more in the mining industry.

Qantas should think itself lucky that these evil unionists haven't just plain walked out on the company and found other employment.
posted by Talez at 7:58 AM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Flights in the air will complete those journeys, the airline said in a statement"

Well, that's good news.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:04 AM on October 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


United or whomever else basically have jack shit in the way of unions or good working conditions.

United != Virgin, JetStar, etc. They are a very unionized airline, and I believe they are (after the CO-UA merger) the largest airline based in the US -- indeed, by fleet and capacity, they're probably the largest airline in the world.

United's labor issues seemed damn near unending in the first decade of this century -- and they were in the middle of a another massive negotiation/fight when 9/11 happened. Because of work action in the year 2000, 2000 is widely known as "The Summer Of Hell" in US airline circles, caused by a work action by UA pilots in response to UA attempting to buy US Air four months before contract negotiations, and with the unions having foregone raises since 1994. Combined with an unusually stormy summer in Chicago, one of UA's hubs (and, at the time, the busiest airport in the world by takeoffs/landings) the action resulted in truly massive delays.
posted by eriko at 8:19 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to hear Lovecraft in Brooklyn's take on this... :'-(
posted by obscurator at 10:33 AM on October 29, 2011


Note that they say "renumeration package" and not "annual salary".
posted by Challahtronix at 10:34 AM on October 29, 2011


- Around 15 per cent increase in wages and allowances over three years. The remuneration package of the average licensed engineer would be around $170,000 in January 2013 if we agreed to the ALAEA’s claim.
- A guarantee that no changes be made to current work practices including changes which improve productivity or that are in line with developments in modern aircraft technology.
- Introduction of a time serving classification structure where workers receive additional pay increases based on years of service rather than merit or qualifications.


If you search for these key terms you wil find them verbatim on a numbe of sites. This one however makes it clear the figues come direct from Qantas.
posted by biffa at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Note that they say "renumeration package" and not "annual salary"."

Great, so it won't even be taxed fairly.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:23 AM on October 29, 2011


But demanding that union leaders be put in charge of certain parts of the business seems completely insane to me, as do the other demands listed above...

Yes, because union involvement in decision-making has destroyed the German economy.

I took that SYD-LAX flight on United a month ago. Very impressed with it compared with the equivalent Qantas flight, as I was with United's domestic operations in the US.

Wow, that's harsh. Because United are hands-down the worst airline I've ever flown with.

(It's worth noting that Qantas, historically the safest major airline in the world, started outsourcing maintenance and engineering to the lowest bidder a few years ago, and has had a succession of uncharacteristic high-profile near misses. Maybe flying in planes services by the lowest bidder isn't such a hot idea...)

But near misses in aviation tend to be caused by human error -- either pilot or air traffic controller. Were these high-profile near misses related to equipment shortcomings?


A good proportion of them, yes.

That's the interesting thing isn't it? We're all in solidarity with the unions or what-have-you but goddamned if I'll fly QANTAS for anything on my own dime, and Virgin, Jetstar, United or whomever else basically have jack shit in the way of unions or good working conditions. That's certainly part of why they're cheaper. So I suppose I'm all pro-union until I have to pay for it for myself, then I'm happy to fly on the exploitation of others... Not a great feeling. :(

I take my earlier comment back. Jetstar are even worse than United. Jetstar (in NZ, anyway) have charming track records like selling wheelchair bound folks tickets and then rufusing to let them fly, and cancelling passengers' tickets when *Jetstar* can't process their check-in queue by the final check-in time. Giving Jetstar money for a flight is like giving a casino money for a house.

Apparently some of the leaders of states here for the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) were supposed to be flying out of Perth tomorrow on QANTAS, not to mention all their staff, and journalists as well that also might have been. It's hard not to see this as a massive middle finger being given to the federal government.

A cynic might wonder how much time Joyce has spent around Tony Abbot.
posted by rodgerd at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2011


He said AIPA's industrial action has been limited to making brief, positive in-flight announcements and wearing red ties.

"In response to this, Mr Joyce has now locked out every pilot working for Qantas. This is nothing short of crazy behaviour," he said.


(source)

MAKE no bones about it, Qantas's strategy to neutralise the power of the unions representing long-haul pilots, aircraft engineers and ground crews has been long in the planning. It even draws into the dispute workers who have no part.

Pilots who fly aircraft in Australia are not involved in the battle, yet Alan Joyce will ground the domestic fleet with the international one.

Since taking the reins from Geoff Dixon three years ago, Joyce and his executive team have been flying towards this confrontation with key parts of its workforce. They will have the backing of Qantas's chairman, Leigh Clifford, who earned a reputation for playing hardball with unions as boss of the mining giant Rio Tinto.


(source)
posted by rodgerd at 12:33 PM on October 29, 2011


kmz wrote: Jesus, if you made $5M a year, why would you even need to take out a mortgage? I suppose at that point you'd be expected to buy some kind of super enormous house proportionate with your income, but fuck that

It's not so much need as that there are (normally) places you can put that money where it will make more than the interest rate on the mortgage. This sort of thinking is a large part of why rich people usually get richer. They have enough to leave a relatively small amount of money, if any, idle, so almost all of their assets are appreciating in value, unlike us plebes.

The downside, of course, is that if you dump millions of dollars into an enterprise that ends up going bust, it can be mildly painful, although nothing like what would happen to me if I lost a good proportion of my assets.
posted by wierdo at 1:31 PM on October 29, 2011


I went to bed before the hearing finished, but I've caught up now.

Qantas's IR manager gave evidence that the union action caused uncertainty and a drop in forward bookings. She also said Qantas couldn't give people any warning about the lockout, in order to "minimize threats to safety" (what does that mean?).

The TWU asked for Qantas documents to be released. In particular they wanted to know about a catering contractor that had been given advance notice of the lockout.

FWA was satisfied that the lockout had reached the threshold requiring it to intervene. The questions remaining were whether to suspend or terminate it, and whether the union action should also be stopped.

Back at 2pm.
posted by robcorr at 1:34 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Joyce, you ignorant douche.
posted by Theta States at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2011


United != Virgin, JetStar, etc.

Thanks, Erico, that's good to know. :)
posted by smoke at 3:43 PM on October 29, 2011


According to Samantha Maiden, Qantas conducted a risk assessment of the lockout plan on 20 October.

On Insiders, George Megalogenis suggested the timing was suspect, with Liberal premiers calling for government intervention out of the blue just a couple of days before the lockout (but after Qantas had begun secretly planning it).
posted by robcorr at 3:44 PM on October 29, 2011


Rob you have a stronger stomach than I to withstand Insiders these days.
posted by smoke at 4:31 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, always surprised at how many people are up watching low-grade trash like Insiders on a Sunday morning when they could be doing something much more inspiring and cheerful, like scrubbing public toilets or cleaning out your earwax with your fingernails.

But, I guess someone's got to do it...
posted by Jimbob at 4:39 PM on October 29, 2011


This is the first day in months that I've watched it, and that's largely because Megalogenis and Tingle are two of the most insightful journos we've got.
posted by robcorr at 5:19 PM on October 29, 2011


It should also be noted that Qantas subsidiary Jetstar has also faced some much more minor industrial action recently.

For those playing at home that's 4 separate unions in dispute with the Qantas group, a fairly suggestive pattern of management's approach to workplace relations.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:00 PM on October 29, 2011


if you were impressed by United, I fear QANTAS.
posted by mephron at 6:08 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems to be a pretty reasonable live news thread for keeping updated. I'm sure there's one buried deep inside the News Ltd deathstar, too, but I'm not game enough to delve into that cesspit.
posted by coriolisdave at 6:34 PM on October 29, 2011


The AFR's Qantas coverage has been released from behind the paywall.
posted by robcorr at 6:51 PM on October 29, 2011


On a lighter note, here's some air control tower comedy.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:07 PM on October 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Best place for up-to-the-minute news about the FWA decision is @leigh_howard. Great coverage last night.
posted by robcorr at 7:17 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah Bob Brown. "It’s high handed, it’s arrogant and it’s going to lead to misery for Australian workers who have been with that airline far longer than Mr Joyce.". Yup, that spade's definitely a spade.
posted by coriolisdave at 8:10 PM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]




What does Abbott say so I can work out the (my) diametrically opposed position? Is this a redundant question? Is this? Is? Is.
posted by peacay at 9:46 PM on October 29, 2011


If this is true, I think the Qantas board is screwed as they're required by the corporations act to disclose if there is an event that materially affects share price. And they didn't.

Please please please let there be comeuppance.
posted by coriolisdave at 10:42 PM on October 29, 2011


What does Abbott say so I can work out the (my) diametrically opposed position? Is this a redundant question?

<DERANGED TWIT>
This is green bats, school halls and and boat arrivals write large. Yet another failure of a failed government. They are in bed with the unions, and that's from where their marching orders come. And under the dead, buried and cremated policy - the policy that can't be named, the policy that definitely isn't our policy - this would never have happened.
</DERANGED TWIT>
posted by the noob at 12:42 AM on October 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Odd to think that the easiest way to fly Sydney-Perth may be via Auckland.
posted by rodgerd at 12:44 AM on October 30, 2011


Apparently FWA has asked counsel for submissions on a technical aspect of issuing a suspension order. That's a fairly good hint that they will suspend (and not terminate) the industrial action - a big win for the unions, with Qantas and all of the government lawyers lined up against them.

(touch wood)
posted by robcorr at 2:54 AM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


robcorr: "Apparently FWA has asked counsel for submissions on a technical aspect of issuing a suspension order. That's a fairly good hint that they will suspend (and not terminate) the industrial action - a big win for the unions, with Qantas and all of the government lawyers lined up against them.

(touch wood
"

robcorr, favorites don't cut it, so thank you SO MUCH for listening and following everything and [meta]filtering it for us.

Also, fuck Joyce. Motherfucker makes umpteen-million a year and doesn't bother to go to the dentist? Untrustable.
posted by barnacles at 4:39 AM on October 30, 2011


Thanks again for the insight, robcorr.
posted by Jilder at 4:41 AM on October 30, 2011


Best place for up-to-the-minute news about the FWA decision is @leigh_howard. Great coverage last night.

Thank you for linking to the twitter feed. Some of the latest comments by Qantas are astounding: That they may not resume flights if FWA doesn't decide in their favour!

Cherry-picked from @leigh_howard:

Cth: lockout is strategic, but thats irrelevant. Section 424 does not contemplate withholding remedy because it is strategic

NSW & VIC: in a case like this, it is irrelevant to consider Qantas and union motives. What matters is likelihood of damage

Qantas: no evidence suspension will return Qantas to the air. There is a real possibility that qantas will not fly during suspension (!!!!)

Qantas: that Qantas may not fly during a suspension is a submission that is not made lightly.

Pilots: Qantas have said that any result other than a termination will result in grounding. Qantas is threatening FWA

Pilots: if their threat is serious, someone should have made that statement in the witness under oath.

Pilots: not one passenger has been delayed by the Pilots action.Yet now, Qantas have affected thousands, & denied right of pilots 2 strike

Pilots: the threat, re: grounding if suspension, is inconsistent w prior evidence given by Qantas

posted by kisch mokusch at 5:04 AM on October 30, 2011


Qantas Plane is a much nicer tweeter.
posted by taff at 6:32 AM on October 30, 2011


Still no word? It's what... 1:30am in the southern states? If I was the FWA I'd go on strike for better working hours.
posted by adamt at 7:31 AM on October 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the decision has been handed down:

@leigh_howard: FWA: we terminate immediately.
posted by metaquarry at 8:30 AM on October 30, 2011


Well, it seems unlikely to me anything will change in the next 21 days. So if negotiating with each other is out, we can expect 3 weeks of both sides pleading their case to the public in the hope of swaying the FWA board by proxy?
posted by adamt at 8:42 AM on October 30, 2011


a big win for the unions, with Qantas and all of the government lawyers lined up against them.

One wonders if th big win being sought is against the Gillard government, and the industrial action is just a proxy. Certainly some of the comments and timings reported here seem awfully suspicious, and the fact the head of the Qantas board is ex-Rio...
posted by rodgerd at 10:51 AM on October 30, 2011


First, a decision by previous management not to invest in 777 planes, which are more fuel-efficient than the many old planes Qantas continues to fly and which most of their competitors are now using. This made Qantas less competitive at a time of rising fuel costs. To try to compensate for poor decision-making, Joyce embarked on a strategy to try to reduce labour costs and cut international routes by Jetstar-ising the Qantas brand.

[...]

Indeed, Qantas reported more than half a billion dollars in profits in the latest financial year, which was far better than everyone had expected and was 46 per cent higher than the previous year, despite the $224 million hurt caused by the many natural disasters, including the Queensland floods, the Japanese earthquake and the Chilean volcanic ash. If it hadn't been for these, its overall profit would have been a whopping $700 million-plus.


Oh, those unions, destroying Qantas' profitability.
posted by rodgerd at 11:04 AM on October 30, 2011


we can expect 3 weeks of both sides pleading their case to the public in the hope of swaying the FWA board by proxy?

That's about the size of it. FWA will only be required to decide on issues that the parties can't agree on in the meantime.

I doubt FWA will touch the job-security issues, and if so this is a huge win for Qantas. By deliberately threatening the national economy, they will have avoided negotiating on matters that are of crucial importance to their staff.
posted by robcorr at 12:38 PM on October 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, they're basically getting rewarded for pulling a giant dick move with no respect for their workers, their customers or the country?

Just once I want these stories to end with someone having the balls to stand up to this sort of corporate greed. Ugh.
posted by lwb at 1:15 PM on October 30, 2011


Alan Joyce:
"I apologise to all Qantas passengers that have been impacted by the industrial action by unions over the past few months and in particular the past few days."
No apology for the lockout.
posted by robcorr at 2:20 PM on October 30, 2011


robcorr wrote: No apology for the lockout.

Yeah, I was watching an ABC stream earlier and they had a shot of a Qantas gate, which had a display saying, in effect, "We're sorry, but due to industrial action, all flights are canceled." I did a double take, knowing that Qantas is the one that decided to shut down. Freakin' ridiculous.

On the bright side, I feel a little better knowing that my country doesn't have a monopoly on companies run by dishonest shits. (sorry to take comfort from your pain, but I'm only human)
posted by wierdo at 8:55 PM on October 30, 2011


"Look at what the invisible hand of the market is forcing me to do! Stop hitting yourself!"
posted by Theta States at 6:08 AM on October 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm going to a conference in Ballarat in January. Guess which airline I *won't* be using to fly from Wellington to Melbourne.

And it won't be because the pilots might wear red ties to talk about their jobs on the intercom, either.
posted by rodgerd at 11:08 AM on November 1, 2011


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