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QANTAS: Flight attendant industrial action on the horizon

QANTAS: Flight attendant industrial action on the horizon

“You can’t post an $150 million profit upgrade and expect crew to take a pay cut,”

Teri O’Toole, Flight Attendant Association

Several unions that Qantas deals with are unhappy with both the way and the substance of the industrial negotiations with Qantas. It looks like after the two announcements of massive profit upgrades, we might see some actual strike action.

Overnight, nearly 100% of the 1200 strong domestic flight attendants (Flight Attendants Association of Australia) voted in favour of protected strike action if they were not offered a better pay deal

This is not a surprising reaction to yesterday’s announcement upgrading the airline’s half-year profit forecast by $150 million.

a plane with seats and a person sitting on it

Terms of the current offer

Qantas is always eager to trumpet the AU $5,000 bonus and the 1,000 shares offered to employees who sign on to the new agreement but is a little more reticent to talk about what flight attendants might be giving up.

The current Qantas enterprise agreement offer would mean domestic cabin crew shifts would move from 9.5 to 12 hours, and 14 in disrupted circumstances. It would reduce the mandated rest period to 10 hours, which brings up issues of fatigue.

If workers give up those things, then they get a 3% annual pay increase post the 2-year wage freeze during the height of COVID. Currently, only about a third of eligible staff have signed up.

a can and a box of crackers on a table

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.

That glitzy, glammy image of flight attendants back last millennium gets a bit punctured if you take on board Teri O’Toole’s line that the average cabin crew member receives a salary of around AU $48,000/year. That’s in stark contrast to CEO Alan Joyce’s claim that the ‘bulk of Qantas employees receives AU $100,000 a year.

Wherever the truth lies, Qantas staff deserve to share in some of the airline’s success, given their pay freeze for a couple of years, the short-staffing that has meant they all work harder, and the passenger abuse, which is caused by management decisions, not flight attendant ones, and their increased exposure to COVID.

I’m a Qantas shareholder, and having bought in the share price slump have already been rewarded. It’s only fair that employees get a share of the airline’s current financial success, given they had to share in the pain during the height of the pandemic.

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