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QANTAS: Of course Alan Joyce doesn’t want to give more power to the unions

QANTAS: Of course Alan Joyce doesn’t want to give more power to the unions

Unless you have been living under a rock here in Australia, you can’t have avoided the news coverage of our government’s Jobs Summit over the last couple of days.

Instead of squabbling over jobs and pay and power and immigration, the summit seems to have been plagued by equal female representation, consensus on the need for wage increases, and employer /employee bargaining reform.

Multi employer agreements

Well, that is until Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas started talking to the conservative mouthpiece, The Australian today.

‘Mr Joyce questioned the centrepiece outcome from the summit after Labor committed to removing barriers to multi-­employer agreements, with the airline boss declaring that “the idea of industry-wide bargaining is something Australia left behind a long time ago … and there were good reasons why”.

“In trying to solve one set of problems we need to be careful to avoid creating new ones,” the Qantas chief executive said.

“What you don’t want is the pendulum swinging too far in ­either direction on industrial relations because the economy relies on getting the balance right.”’The Weekend Australian ,Satuday 3 September 2022

a group of people sitting in a row

Power in industrial relations negotiations has already moved to employees

Alan knows in these times of staff shortages, workers whether they be baggage handlers, aircraft engineers, pilots or cabin crew, have the upper hand in any bargaining situation. And he doesn’t want the government’s wage negotiation apparatus to provide them with any more advantages.

There is an irony in Joyce laying off 20,000 staff at the beginning of the pandemic, and now wanting most of them back, but not prepared to pay them anymore. That equation has slammed their public reputation, with flight delays and cancellations, luggage delays and losses, causing Joyce to offer customers an AU$50 bribe/voucher and a promise to do better.

Remember that Joyce is the man who shut down Qantas flights worldwide in 2011, sacked 1700 baggage handlers illegally, and saw the Qantas workforce reduced by 6,000 to 9,000 positions during the pandemic, while at the same time accepting a couple of billion dollars in JobKeeper and government support transport subsidies.

He is also the boss who has offered his staff AU$3000 bonuses, more employee discounted flights, basically anything that will stop Qantas unions from baking on a 3% salary increase each year for the next 4 years, well at least for engineers anyway. Even the baggage handlers he sacked, and now largely outsourced are threatening industrial action over poor pay.

Qantas record losses

In his defence, Qantas has had a horror ride during the pandemic, with losses reaching around AU$7 billion – nearly a billion of that in the last 12 months. In that light, the 2 or so billion in government support is but a drop in the ocean.

Joyce has also navigated the pandemic and kept Qantas operating and solvent – something that dozens of airlines around the world have failed at – including its local rival Virgin Australia.

However, it seems odd that in an industry where service comes second only to price, and good service relies on having happy employees, Joyce and Qantas continue to run with confrontation as their major industrial relations strategy. A mode of operation, I have to say they are practised and successful at.

a group of people standing in an airplane

2PAXfly Takeout

This is another timely reminder to wear your seatbelt when seated. Holding you close to your seat will protect you from the sort of injuries sustained on this flight, when unsecured passengers flew to the ceiling of the aircraft, and then came crashing down once the ‘drop’ ceased.

The hope will be that this is an anomaly – a ‘freak accident’ in casual parlance. If it is a systemic error either mechanical or electronic, then this is a larger concern for the airlines that fly Boeing Dreamliner 787 aircraft. Let’s hope it isn’t. If it is, it will pile on the woes to Boeing’s existing stack.

If the federal government proposed industrial reforms, including multi-employer agreements are implemented, Qantas almost certainly will lose its negotiating advantage. It could mean that negotiations for some employees, say engineers, baggage handlers, cabin staff and pilots – pretty much the same jobs whether you work for Qantas, Virgin or REX, could be negotiated across the industry, rather than airline by airline.

That’s a threat to the negotiation power of Qantas and Joyce’s team. No surprise he opposes it.

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