Jetstar: All I want is a Pilot’s strike for Xmas?
Current negotiations for a new agreement with Jetstar pilots and baggage handlers have run into trouble. These two groups could substantially stuff around Jetstar’s Xmas, especially now that the workplace regulator has cleared potential industrial action once an approving ballot has been held.
Pilots represented by their union the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP), want a 15% pay increase in the first year, and the Qantas Airways subsidiary, doesn’t want to pay that. Well, at least not without substantial compromises on other conditions to create ‘efficiencies’.
The AFAP applied to Fair Work Australia for protected industrial action, and deputy president Val Gostencnik has ruled that the conditions to grant such protection – there being a genuine attempt by the union to reach an agreement with the airline – have been met.
Baggage handlers, represented by the Transport Workers Union received a similar judgment last week.
This appears to be Jetstar’s and the AFPA’s playbook. Something similar happened back in 2015, when they withdrew the strike ballot as an act of good faith, as they reached an acceptable four-year agreement. Back then, the union agreed to an 18-month wage freeze, and then a series of annual 3% pay increases after that, as well as some more flexible conditions.
Qantas, and therefore Jetstar are no shrinking violets when it comes to industrial relations. This is definitely a hardball game.
In the presentation to investors yesterday (19 November 2019) CEO Joyce, outlined a wish to increase Jetstar’s profit margin from 9 to 22 per cent by 2024. A 15 per cent wage increase for pilots in the first year of their industrial agreement, is not particularly consistent with that announcement – unless other aspects of the new agreement provide substantial ‘efficiencies’.
However, I think the unions are gaining the potential protected action as a tactic, to make sure they are in a commanding position to negotiate the best possible deal with Qantas/Jetstar.
It’s no accident that these disputes are always set to escalate around important holidays, which are peak periods for the airline – say Easter, or in this case Christmas.
Let’s hope this is resolved amicably in the interests of Jetstar customers before the Xmas rush.