A union boss tells plummeting team spirit has been felt in every department of the Australian airline, with some shifts reporting an absentee rate of 83 percent.
Qantas Group engineers
They say that timing is everything in life and business. Today, Qantas engineers began strike action on the same day the airline declared its third consecutive loss of more than A$1 billion ($692 million) a few days after the CEO apologized for the airline’s poor performance.
Earlier this month, Qantas Group engineers voted on a proposal to take protected industrial action, including strikes. More than 90% of those who voted supported taking action, including engineers from Qantas, Jetstar, and Network Aviation. The unrest is over protracted negotiations between Qantas and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) on pay and conditions.
Qantas Group, licensed aircraft maintenance engineers
Within the Qantas Group, licensed aircraft maintenance engineers (LAMES) are seeking different levels of pay gains. At the 3 airlines, the payment claims range from 12% to 20% over four years. Earlier this year, Qantas offered its employees, including the maintenance engineers, a 2% pay increase plus a A$5000 ($3,460) bonus and rights to 1,000 Qantas shares, now valued at A$4.54 ($3.15) per share. Given the chasm between the 2 sides, it’s not surprising that industrial action is primed and ready to follow.
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What is unusual is the prepared action which commences today with a one-minute strike by union members at the beginning of their shift. After reading the union’s notice to its members, it becomes clear this is a strategic move that puts in place the mechanism for stronger action in the future.
“This will not harm passengers or the airlines, it will remind them that from this point, our options can be developed at any time with 3 workdays’ notice. The committees wish to meet with the airlines after we take action to see if they are more inclined to settle the disputes.”
The statement adds that “members can decide for themselves if they want to follow or ignore this notification, and non-members cannot stop work.
” While the airlines can deduct one minute’s pay from striking employees, they are not allowed to fire, demote or harm in any way those who strike. In an Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) news report today, Purvinas says that morale is “absolutely in the gutter” across all Qantas departments. “For example, I can operate a department in Sydney where they need 60 people on every shift. It is not unusual for 50 out of the 60 people to call in sick on any given day,” he claims.
The ABC information quotes an unnamed Qantas engineer with 30 years of service who says Qantas engineers have not had a pay rise since 2019.
“Whatever else is happening around the world, the company has stated things aren’t looking real good at the moment can you guys support us out and accept a one-year wage freeze,” he tells. “Generally, everyone goes yeah, because we want the company to succeed, and it’s in our best interests to keep our jobs.”
Given the pseudonym Mark, he tells striking is motivated by seeking recognition and respect for the expertise engineers bring to a high-pressure role.
In his senior role, Mark is needed to sign the Certificate of Release when an aircraft is being returned to service. That’s a lot of responsibility carried by his signature, and he tells, “When I sign an aircraft off then if something happens, I’m responsible for it.”
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