Qantas strikes brew despite $5,000 bonus offer

Adelaide, Australia - March 21, 2016: The tarmac at Adelaide Airport is a hive of activity as baggage services personnel load luggage onto Qantas 737-800 aircraft “Coonawarra” as it is prepared for its next flight.  Also on the tarmac, the aircraft refueller packs up his equipment.

Qantas’ one-time bonus offer of $5,000 for staff to accept a pay deal that includes a two-year wage freeze, followed by a 2 per cent annual pay bump, has fallen flat with engineers.

The airline’s engineers are pushing ahead with a poll to determine if they will take industrial action to push for higher pay.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) were given permission by the Fair Work Commission to ballot members before any strike action. The Australian Financial Review reported that most members must participate and a majority have to vote for industrial action for the strike to be protected under law.

Qantas’s bonus scheme would fail to meet its main objective if strikes were to go ahead.

Over 1000 members at Qantas, JetStar and the airline’s Perth-based charter subsidiary Network Aviation will be polled and there were “contingency plans” in place to limit disruption, according to a company spokesperson.

The vote will end on 10 August, meaning industrial action cannot begin until 15 August.

A Qantas spokesman said in a statement it was “disappointed” and said the vote was “completely unnecessary”.

“With the industry still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, the last thing it needs is the threat of industrial action,” the spokesman said.

“The latest claim by the ALAEA was for a one-year agreement with a 12 per cent pay rise.

“That’s something we simply can’t afford and is well above wage increases for other employees across the group.”

ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas – who has criticised Qantas’ bonus scheme – said the pay demands are reasonable considering “our members at Qantas have not received a wage increase in four years.”

The union began negotiations with the flying kangaroo in 2019, which was paused during the pandemic and resumed in December last year.

The $5,000 bonuses were offered to employees in late June, but warned its employees these would be scrapped if the company was harmed.

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