Unions have slammed Qantas for trying to “force through” a deal that would see cabin crew wages slashed.
The national carrier announced on Thursday that it had applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate its long haul cabin crew agreement after both the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) and 97 per cent of voting crew rejected a new enterprise agreement.
Qantas said it had spent six months negotiating with the union and other bargaining representatives to bring in the new deal which would make key changes to rostering rules that prevent some long haul crew members from being used on more than one single type of aircraft.
The airline said the new four-year deal included a pay increase and increased allowances, and labelled the FAAA’s counteroffer “unworkable”.
However, the FAAA said deal sought to impose a two-year pay freeze followed by 2 per cent pay rises.
“This is likely to be a real-world pay cut, not even keeping up with inflation,” the union said on its Facebook page.
The airline’s decision to terminate the agreement could see pay cuts of between 30-50 per cent for long-haul cabin crew, according to a joint statement from the FAAA and the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
“These are heroes of the pandemic who sacrificed their own health to bring stranded Australians home,” Teri O’Toole, FAAA’s federal secretary said
“They have been on the frontline of the pandemic since the early days, and have faced stand downs up to 20 months, far longer than any other industry.
“A 97 per cent rejection of an agreement should be heard and a compromise sought, but instead Qantas has chosen to punish its loyal and suffering workforce.”
Qantas International CEO Andrew David said the airline was “stuck between a rock and a hard place”.
“We’re seeking termination because we can’t effectively run our business without the rostering changes we desperately need to properly restart our international network in a post-COVID world,” he said.
“The challenges facing airlines are pretty obvious and, even though we’re flying internationally again, it’s clear that we have to operate in a more agile and flexible way than we did pre-COVID in order to recover and match customer demand. The level of complexity we’re dealing with is huge.”
David claims the new deal was blocked by an “FAA scare campaign” and that the union’s default stance was that Qantas “can’t be trusted and should always give more”.
“I know our people will be disappointed that it has come to this and so are we,” he said.
“We’re open to putting the same deal that was rejected back on the table, but that would require a change of heart from a union that has continually misrepresented the facts.”
President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Michele O’Neil, is urging the airline to “withdraw this threat”, and for the Morrison government to condemn its decision.
“Qantas has received billions in taxpayer funds over the last two years. Now they are threatening workers to try and force through a deal, slash wages and keep more of our money for themselves,” O’Neil said.
“Flight attendants are highly trained to deal with a wide range of incredibly difficult situations. They have made sacrifices again and again during the pandemic, and they have the full support of the union movement in this fight.”
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.