The country’s airports are facing the threat of chaos over the Christmas holiday season after Qantas domestic cabin crew voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with the strike.
The strike threat comes after 99 percent of the airline’s 1,200 flight attendants voted in favor of union action unless the airline returns to the negotiating table with a better pay offer.
It came as a Labor senator doubled down on his attack on Qantas boss Alan Joyce, accusing him of “hoarding all the bananas” and calling for his resignation.
“Employers like Qantas are leading the charge and leading the big companies, the big gorillas, to fight back to say middle incomes should not be allowed into the economy and to improve,” Tony Sheldon said Thursday.
“We have an airline with an older fleet, they are not reinvesting, they are turning around and repurchasing shares.
“They are paying themselves significant executive salary increases, and they are doing so at the expense of the Australian community as well.”
No date has been announced for the cabin crew’s union action, or a UKTN for a return offer from Qantas. On Thursday, the airline described its support for strikes as “very disappointing”.
The Flight Attendants Association of Australia said cabin crew will consider any action to minimize disruption to the traveling public. But National Secretary Teri O’Toole said staff wanted a fair wage offer that didn’t push back pay and conditions.
“Our members have languished under expired agreements for several years as they bear the brunt of withdrawals and the COVID pandemic,” she said on Thursday.
“Meanwhile, the demand for travel has recovered strongly and Qantas is making billions in profits.
“Yet Qantas is asking its loyal employees, who stood by the airline during its worst days, to accept wage freezes and below-inflation pay raises while demanding huge productivity gains.”
The Australian reported on Thursday that cabin crew would extend services from 9.5 a.m. to 12 a.m., and to 2 p.m. in the event of disruption, under a new company agreement offered by Qanta.
The airline also wants to reduce rest times between services to 10 hours. Ms O’Toole said this would only exacerbate the fatigue problem.
She said The Australian that Qantas also threatened to exclude existing cabin crew from work on new aircraft such as the A321XLR, which will replace Boeing 737s in the coming years.
“With this vote, flight attendants have declared that enough is enough,” said Ms O’Toole.
“Qantas cannot continue to bully them into accepting bad pay deals while threatening their jobs, while predicting billion-dollar profits and massive bonuses for managers.”
A Qantas spokesman said the result of the vote was “deeply disappointing”. The airline had offered 3 percent pay increases and access to more than $7,000 in bonus payments, a spokesman said.
“The cabin crew is also lining up to receive 1,000 shares worth about $6,000,” he said.
Senator Sheldon, a former Transport Workers Union, said that while the airline was making record profits and targeting its workers, ordinary Australians were suffering from exorbitant airfares
“They are not only caring from the Australian community, but also from their own staff,” he told Sky News on Thursday.
“She [the business community] have Alan Joyce spearheading that attack [on multi-employer bargaining]it’s just disgusting.”
Senator Sheldon also targeted a Qantas plan to move 1,300 employees from an existing corporate bargaining agreement to individual contracts. He said that would jeopardize safety.
“If you get experienced people and throw them out of the company in critical safety areas, you put the safety of the airline at risk,” he said.
“They say if you don’t turn around and accept the deal, we’ll turn it around and put you back on the award.
“Agreed negotiations over many decades that have been openly agreed upon are now being thrown out the door and you can get a 50 to 60 percent pay cut unless you accept the 20 or 40 percent pay cut now.”
Thursday’s reports came a day after Qantas boss Mr Joyce declined to comment on reports he will meet with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to lobby against workplace reforms aimed at raising wages.
On Wednesday, the flag carrier announced an expected $150 million increase in mid-year earnings, which is now expected to hit a whopping $1.45 billion.
That represents an increase of $800 million to $1 billion from market expectations in October, when Qantas released its latest improved earnings outlook.
Qantas chairman Richard Goyder recently denied that a decision to outsource ground handling services had led to widespread complaints about baggage handling.