Qantas engineers vote on work stoppages as they seek higher pay
By Jamie Freed
SYDNEY (Reuters) -Qantas Airways Ltd's unionised licensed aircraft engineers are voting on work stoppages of up to 12 hours and overtime bans from next month after failing to reach a pay agreement with the airline, the union's head said on Wednesday.
The move which affects around 1,000 engineers across Qantas and subsidiaries Jetstar and Network Aviation, comes as the airline is trying to minimise disruption to customers from worker shortages at airports that have led to increased flight delays and cancellations.
"With the industry still recovering from the impact of the pandemic, the last thing it needs is the threat of industrial action," a Qantas spokesperson said. "Should the union proceed with industrial action, we have contingency plans to minimise any disruptions."
The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) last week was granted approval by the Fair Work Commission to hold the ballot on industrial action, as first reported by The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday.
ALAEA Federal Secretary Steve Purvinas said the ballot, due to close on July 30, was extended to Aug. 10 by the Australian Electoral Commission. The first industrial action could take place in the third week of August, though it would not target holiday periods to minimise disruption.
Qantas has offered its 19,000 workers covered by union contracts a A$5,000 ($3,396.50) bonus when they reach new pay agreements, provided they agree to wage increases of 2% annually following a two-year wage freeze during the pandemic.
In this case, the 2% rise for members of the ALAEA at the main Qantas brand would apply from mid-2021, given its last pay deal was long expired. That compares to inflation in Australia that is forecast to reach 7% by the end of the year and the union's push for a 12% rise this year, which it says covers the equivalent of four years given the stalled talks.
"Our members at Qantas have not received a wage increase in four years," Purvinas said. "The airline wage freeze offer is insulting to engineers who have borne the brunt of COVID stand-downs and redundancies."
($1 = 1.4721 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Christopher Cushing)