The international arm of Australian flag carrier Qantas has applied to Australia’s Fair Work Commission to terminate its long-haul cabin crew agreement and ditch what the airline calls “restrictive and outdated rostering processes”
The moves because crew on Qantas long-haul flights under the current agreement are limited to working on Airbus A330s only, or on Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s only. Airline officials say they need to have crew be able to fly on all three types in order for Qantas International to deal with the COVID pandemic and its effects on international aviation.
Qantas said in a statement that this is the first time it has sought to terminate an enterprise agreement and that no job losses would occur as a result. 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.
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 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.
“We have sold land, mortgaged aircraft and raised money from shareholders to get through this pandemic,” David said, omitting the fact that Qantas did lay off thousands of employees and has outsourced thousands of other jobs. “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.”
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, increasing from April onwards as Omicron-related restrictions ease overseas.