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QANTAS: International Cabin Crew reject 2 year wage freeze

QANTAS: International Cabin Crew reject 2 year wage freeze

With 2,277 Qantas international cabin crew out of 2,336 voting ‘no’ to the proposed 4-year pay deal, I call that an overwhelming rejection of the Qantas management offer.

Teri O’Toole, national secretary of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) accuses Qantas of trying to take advantage of the pandemic and employees who have been stood down for 20 months. She noted that at a time where other professions, experiencing staff shortages were receiving pay increases and better conditions, Qantas staff, who have endured layoffs and stand-downs were being offered a deal that strips pay and conditions from them.

The FAAA had tried to have the vote delayed pending more negotiations, but the Fair Work Commission allowed the ballot to proceed.

New Lounge area on Qantas A380s

What’s this all about?

Qantas international cabin crew are negotiating their next 4-year Enterprise Bargaining Agreement and Qantas – ever the canny negotiator – is seeking to take advantage of current COVID related reductions in international travel, to freeze cabin crew pay and reduce conditions. Here are some of the main points of negotiation:

  • Pay freeze for 2 years
  • Increase in standby shifts – even for those returning from parental leave
  • Stop cash payments for meal allowances in foreign destinations – instead pay in arrears by direct deposit

As with most of these negotiations, both sides have some valid points. Qantas has been badly affected by the pandemic, but it is also an extremely well-run company that has maintained its access to cash throughout the COVID crisis and has successfully lobbied the government for billions in continuing support payments. The Union on the other hand has seen its membership dwindle due to layoffs, with nearly 2 years of no international flying. It’s in a weakened condition, ripe for exploitation by Qantas.

The Qantas cash payment of allowances proposal on the surface seems sensible. Who uses cash anymore anyway? But, it also moves the responsibility from the employer to the employee. Under the proposal, it is the cabin crew member who will now have to go to a bank or machine to get their cash to buy food in Delhi. Think of it like self-check-in: once a Qantas staff member would check you in, issue a ticket, tag your bags etc. Now you have to do that yourself, check-in online or at a machine at the airport, weigh your bags and print and tag your own baggage.

Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Group

2PAXfly Takeout

This happened a couple of days before Christmas (22 December 2021), so it looks like the Xmas spirit was at a low ebb.

On the one hand, Qantas is talking up its recovery due to ‘pent up demand’ and the exciting new routes it is exploring, boasting about how quickly its new Melbourne to Delhi route sold out in hours in contrast to the usual 12 months for a new route. And on the other hand, it’s trying to screw its cabin crew, who have already endured much during the ban on international travel.

Both Qantas and the union here are savvy operators, however, Qantas overwhelmingly has the upper hand, so let’s hope it exercises it responsibly, and that the union while still acting in the best interests of its members, does not cut its nose off despite its face.

Happy crew means better service and a better airline in my view.

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