Qantas International has applied to Australia’s Fair Work Commission to terminate its Long Haul Cabin Crew agreement as what it calls a last resort to change restrictive and outdated rostering processes.
The airline says there are no job losses associated with the proposed termination.
This is the first time in Qantas’ history that it has sought to terminate an enterprise agreement and it follows six months of negotiation with the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) and other bargaining representatives for a new enterprise agreement that was rejected by both the union and 97 percent of crew who voted.
Qantas says the rejected four-year deal included a pay increase and increased allowances. The airline adds that the new deal sought to simplify complex and historical rostering conditions that meant around 20 percent of more than 2,500 long haul crew could only be used on a single type of aircraft – which is unworkable as the airline seeks to recover from COVID.
Qantas maintains that the need for change to rostering processes was recognised by the Fair Work Commission in an earlier decision relating to bargaining for the agreement.
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The airline says the FAAA’s counter-offer represented a $60 million cost increase over four years – which is also unworkable.
CEO of Qantas International, Andrew David, said: “Asking to terminate the current agreement is the last thing we want, but we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Our best offer, which incorporated several union demands, was rejected by 97 percent of the crew who voted.
“We’re seeking termination because we can’t effectively run our business without the rostering changes we desperately need to properly restart our international network in a post-COVID world.
“The challenges facing airlines are pretty obvious and, even though we’re flying internationally again, it’s clear that we have to operate in a more agile and flexible way than we did pre-COVID in order to recover and match customer demand. The level of complexity we’re dealing with is huge.
“The FAAA ran a scare campaign against the new deal, claiming it would mean redundancies and offshoring despite the fact that we’re currently hiring new crew in Australia. The union’s default position is that the company can’t be trusted and should always give more. That’s simply wrong.
“Termination of the agreement would see crew revert to the modern award, which is the safety net for the industry, while a new agreement is negotiated. Given both the current agreement and the offer we put on the table have pay and conditions significantly higher than the modern award, we clearly don’t want to cut people’s pay.
“Unfortunately, the process doesn’t let us pick and choose which bits of the current agreement are terminated in order to get the crucial rostering flexibility we need.
“I know our people will be disappointed that it has come to this and so are we. We’re open to putting the same deal that was rejected back on the table, but that would require a change of heart from a union that has continually misrepresented the facts.
“We have sold land, mortgaged aircraft, and raised money from shareholders to get through this pandemic. The government has provided hundreds of millions in direct funding to our employees while they were stood down. We don’t think the flexibility we’re asking from our international crew is unreasonable given the challenges we continue to face,” Mr. David said.
Qantas said that the Fair Work Commission is expected to start dealing with the termination application over the coming weeks, with Qantas requesting the hearing be expedited.
Qantas’ international flying is expected to remain at around 20 percent of pre-COVID levels for the next few months.
Under the current enterprise agreement, Qantas International crew are limited to working on Airbus A330s only, or on Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s only and Qantas is seeking for the cabin crew to be trained to work across all three wide-body aircraft.