Qantas group engineers vote to strike

Sydney, Australia - February 12, 2019: Jetstar Airbus A320 flying behind Qantas aircraft.

More than 700 Qantas, Jetstar and Network Aviation’s maintenance engineers have voted in favour of industrial action over pay negotiations.

The vote took place as a postal ballot among Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) members, where more than 90 per cent of those who responded voted yes.

ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas said in a video message to members that strong support for industrial action was not surprising, given Qantas’ proposed wage freeze, followed by 2 per cent annual pay rises.

“While CPI is above 5 per cent it would be silly to agree to something like that and of course we haven’t and don’t intend to,” Purvinas said.

Qantas engineers were looking for a one-off pay bump of 12 per cent after four years of negotiation while Jetstar engineers were seeking a 15 per cent rise over four years.

Engineers at Western Australia-based Network Aviation were seeking a 20 per cent rise over four years.

Purvinas said that the real reason for the ballot was not to launch a strike but to get the airlines to return to the negotiating table.

“What we will be doing is going back and reinforcing the fact it is inappropriate to try to push a wage freeze at this time,” he said.

Purvinas said that if the next round of negotiations do not go well then the association will consider stoppages, which could vary in length from an hour to a full shift.

In the event of a stoppage, Purvinas said ALAEA plans to offer “alternative labour provisions” so that Qantas don’t go to the fair work commission with claims that the association is damaging the economy or have gone too far with their actions.

“Our target is not the passengers, our target is the airlines who are not negotiating in good faith,” he said.

“We want to create a financial penalty for them to find alternative labour that we will offer.”

Steve Purvinas discussing the vote with ALAEA members

Qantas engineering executive manager Scott McConnell said it was “disappointing” that the union were moving towards industrial action.

“We’re committed to pay increases for our licensed engineers, but the union’s pay claims are as high 12 per cent for one year, or three times the wage increases already agreed to this year by thousands of our employees,” McConnell said.

“The union has repeatedly said that any industrial action won’t impact customers’ travel plans and, while we hope they stick to their word, we’re also putting in place contingency plans in case they don’t.

“The entire aviation sector is still recovering from the impact of COVID, and the threat of industrial action is the last thing travellers need.”

Qantas is also facing possible industrial action from ground crews, who are employed by Dnata.

Dnata ground crew within Qantas’ supply chain will go ahead with voting on whether to take industrial action after the Fair Work Commission approved a union application to hold a protected action ballot.

A result of its ballot is expected early next month.

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