A majority of Qantas’ cabin crew claim they would need to find a new job to get by if the airline succeeds in terminating their enterprise agreement, according to a union survey.
The Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) surveyed 1,300 cabin crew workers to reveal the extent of the financial and mental toll on workers from two years of stand-downs alongside Qantas’ threats to scrap its long haul cabin crew agreement, which would represent an hourly rate cut of 41 per cent.
Three-quarters of those surveyed said they would have to find a new job to pay the bills if the airline succeeds in terminating their enterprise agreement, and one in eight said they’ve had to move out of their home, while the stress has caused one in nine to suffer relationship breakdowns.
Mental health had declined for 81 per cent of crew, with 33 per cent needing professional help or medication and 15 per cent saying they’d had suicidal thoughts.
Around three quarters have been a flight attendant for 10 years or more, while almost half have over 20 years’ experience.
Several recounted times they’ve saved lives in medical emergencies, performed CPR, administered oxygen, helped women miscarrying on board, and restrained violent passengers.
The national carrier applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate its long haul cabin crew agreement after both the FAAA and 97 per cent of voting crew rejected a new enterprise agreement that would have cut pay and conditions for some workers and doubled standby times in rosters, during which workers can be called in at 90 minutes notice for long periods away from home.
Over 90 per cent said they voted against the proposal because of its impact on work/life balance, while 80 per cent were concerned they’d have to work longer hours for less money.
Due to roster uncertainty, 61 per cent said they’d need to go part-time or leave their jobs to manage childcare or other caring responsibilities, while 80 per cent said they were concerned fatigue would impair their ability to respond to an emergency.
Qantas International CEO Andrew David said the new offer included a 6 per cent pay rise over four years, however, the FAAA said the deal also sought to impose a two-year pay freeze which would more likely result in a “real-world pay cut” when inflation is taken into account.
“We have to get this international airline started again and we need desperately need flexibility in our rostering system. It’s very clear right now that we are not close to getting a deal,” David said.
“Our crew have simply been fantastic through the pandemic, as they have been over decades and decades of service. They’ve been let down by their union, who have led them to believe that if they say no to our offer, there’s a better offer on the table. There isn’t. And we’re running out of time.”
FAAA Federal secretary Teri O’Toole called on Qantas management to read the full survey results before proceeding with its nuclear approach to terminate the agreement.
“Today, hundreds of families are back together thanks to the sacrifices made by Qantas cabin crew,” O’Tool said.
“These volunteers put on their PPE during a global pandemic and ran towards the fire, as they are trained to do as aviation’s first responders. Now, they’re fighting fires to save their pay and conditions.
“Workers don’t want credit, or letters of thanks from Morrison. They want a fair agreement that allows them to see their kids and keep a roof over their head.
“Every worker is entitled to work/life balance, job security and financial stability, no less the heroes of the pandemic. We’re ready to get back to the table and negotiate a fair deal and call on Qantas to do the same.”
TWU assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said Qantas management is on a mission to clear out workers who’ve built up reasonable standards and safe conditions over years of collective bargaining.
“This Qantas management team will not rest until every unionised worker is driven out by force, fear or famine,” McIntosh said.
“These are deliberate gun-to-head tactics to pressure workers into agreeing to terms that would shatter their family lives or else take such a hit to their pay they’d have to walk out on jobs they’ve done with pride for decades.
The Fair Work Commission is expected to start dealing with the termination application over the coming weeks, with Qantas requesting the hearing be expedited.
Qantas’ international flying is expected to remain at around 20 per cent of pre-COVID levels for the next few months, increasing from April onwards as Omicron-related restrictions ease overseas.
This is the third time the FAAA and Qantas have been before the Commission regarding this round of bargaining.
Travel Weekly has reached out to Qantas for a response but is yet to receive a reply.
Featured image: FAAA Federal Secretary Teri O’Toole (supplied)