Corporatist conservative governments urge intervention

In what many would see as a turn-up-for-the-books, the Baillieu and O’Farrell governments have both come out urging the federal government to intervene in the Qantas disputes.  What the?

THE NSW and Victorian governments have urged Julia Gillard to order Qantas workers to abandon their industrial action, arguing the disputes enveloping the airline pose “an immediate, significant and direct threat” to their states’ economies.

In a letter that will land on the Prime Minister’s desk today, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu urge her to invoke section 431 of the Fair Work Act, which allows the federal government to ban strikes that “threaten to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it”…

Talks aimed at reaching a settlement with Transport Workers Union collapsed on Wednesday and baggage, catering and ramp workers are due to hold one-hour nationwide stoppages today.

You have to go back a very long way to find a time when a conservative government advocated this sort of intervention – Malcolm Fraser was the ultimate centralist/corporatist when it came to industrial relations, but the times were very very different then, it has to be conceded.

Are these two premiers aware that federal government intervention in the Qantas disputes is a highway to compulsory arbitration?  Are they also aware that any arbitrated ‘resolution’ will be some bodgey, patched-together compromise that undermine Qantas’ efforts to improve their competitiveness?

Referring to the Melbourne Cup, the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race and the tennis, inter alia, just underscores the incredibly short term thinking of the Premiers.

The reality is that Qantas needs to establish flexible and sustainable arrangements with its workforce which enables it to compete with other airlines.  There is a very big divide in the features of the Qantas employment arrangements and those found in those other airlines, including in relation to outsourcing, use of contractors and labour hire staff, work practices generally and hours of work (long haul pilots, in particular).  This divide must be narrowed.

Another point:  I have been on the planes a lot recently and have to put up with the lecture from the pilots.  I always lodge my objection with the attendants when disembarking.  The message is becoming shriller over time, but includes the inane plea that their aim is to keep Qantas pilots on Qantas planes.  Oh and reference to safety –  of course.  Not sure what it all means.

Let us not forget those Qantas long haul pilots work only two-thirds of the annual hours of pilots on other comparable airlines and that the top captains earn over $500,000 per year.

But now we are being told to be grateful to the pilots for NOT taking industrial action and could we go the pilots’ union website to register our support.  Mmmmm.

And I thought the pilots were professionals.

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57 Responses to Corporatist conservative governments urge intervention

  1. Adrian

    i think you are missing the point. It is because of the Fed’s IR laws that these unions are allowed to get away with what they are doing. the Feds helped create the mess, they need to sort it out.

    The upshot is the Feds IR laws are unworkable.

  2. Judith Sloan

    But, Adrian, just saying the bad law has caused this dispute – it has emboldened the unions to seek unrealistic claims and has allowed faux protected industrial action – does not mean that the goverment should be urged to seek a “solution” under this defective law.

  3. peter reith

    Apart from the excellent policy points made in your article, you would have to wonder why anybody, but especially Tony Abbott who keeps saying she is a hopeless PM, would want Julia Gillard to ‘fix’ Qantas.

  4. Helen Armstrong

    Why do we have to have our ‘own’ carrier? Isn’t it like having our ‘own’ maufacturing or our ‘own’ car making?

  5. Benne

    Do you people even understand the fwa process? The qantas union have been in negotiation for over a year. Job security is the core value. Fwa dictate what union action is allowed, not the union. Qantas management and board and inept at best and downright disgraceful in managing anything.majority of the 30 000 strong qantas can’t be wrong and aj and a few senior managers right. Get your facts straight please before you comment on matters you clearly have no understanding of

  6. daddy dave

    Why do we have to have our ‘own’ carrier? Isn’t it like having our ‘own’ maufacturing or our ‘own’ car making?

    Yes, it’s silly.

    But not to worry, our restrictive IR laws and government-backed unions will soon drive away “our” airline or else send it to the wall.

  7. David Elson

    The wall is definitely looking more likely DD.

    Cheers,
    David

  8. Get Real!!

    QANTAS management is sending QANTAS to the wall – nothing else. Look at the success of Virgin under the “intelligent” leadership of CEO John Borghetti. Joyce is quite simply not up to the job, and has only one mode – low cost. He is trashing the QANTAS brand here and across the globe. Are you people so stupid as to believe these biased “PR for the company disguised as factual journalism” articles? My God. No wonder we are in a mess…

    Sheesh. Get real.

  9. Look at the success of Virgin under the “intelligent” leadership of CEO John Borghetti.

    That success is attributable to a lower and more flexible cost base, something Joyce wants for Qantas. What the unions are trying to do is reduce flexibility and raise the cost base.

    As I’ve said previously, a strike and/or lockout for 3 weeks will sort them out. Qantas will be competitive after that, I’m certain.

  10. Infidel Tiger

    QANTAS management is sending QANTAS to the wall – nothing else. Look at the success of Virgin under the “intelligent” leadership of CEO John Borghetti

    You freaking moron. Qantas has to pay it’s pilots, engineers, ground crews, cabin staff and baggage handlers significantly more than Virgin. The nions are driving Qantas to the wall not that silly Irishman with the awful fangs.

  11. Judith Sloan

    In fact, the unions recently did a deal with Virgin that involved no pay rise for three years! And Virgin have all sorts of flexbible arrangements using labour hire staff. Qantas groundstaff are paid 14 to 15 per cent more than Virgin staff for unskilled work.

    Virgin undertakes NO heavy maintenance of its aircrafts in Australia.

    If Qantas could simply mimic the Virgin arrangements, it would be a big happy vegemite.

  12. trax

    Tony Sheldon (TWU):
    “those two premiers have a responsibility to defend this country against the greed of the executives of this board, the directors of this board and the attempt to asianise this airline”

    Imagine if someone else had said that? Anti-capitalist, interventionist, protectionist and xenophobia and in one short statement.

  13. Johno

    Tony Sheldon (TWU):
    “those two premiers have a responsibility to defend this country against the greed of the executives of this board, the directors of this board and the attempt to asianise this airline”

    Imagine if someone else had said that? Anti-capitalist, interventionist, protectionist and xenophobia and in one short statement.

    Isn’t he one of the ALP Right’s candidates for the ALP Presidency? They sure know how to pick them!

  14. Benne

    Judith you are clearly mis-informed. The pay scales at virgin are similar. For a licenced engineer they are better. The alaea took pay freezes during SARS but was never rewarding. There has been countless actions like this over the years to assist the company. Qantas engineers continue to implement work changes and practices. I’ve given more than half my life to qantas. 21 years loyal service. I earn nowhere near $170 000. I’ve seen the halving of the workforce and doubling of our productivity in that time. I’ve seen and worked in overseas maintenance facilities. If you want facts, I will give you every detail. This is not about unions, or pay. It is about a board about to destroy the 2nd oldest airline in the world for no better reason than greed. As I’ve said, if you want facts, contact me personally and you will have the real truth not some hear-say and public relations lies from qantas management

  15. Benne

    I have seen complaints coming from your union about over-time and also about job losses. So I am just wondering is the problem too much work or not enough?

  16. Benne

    There is always plenty of work until they outsource maintenance. Most of the engineers will work overtime under normal circumstances, especially if it’s to meet a schedule or minimise an engineering delay. Whether management believe it or not,qantas engineers love their job, love the company and are damn proud of their reputation for worlds best practices in engineering. I’ve given 21 years of my life and I’m just a junior in engineering years. We dedicate out life to the company and the flying public. The problems are arising due to mis-management, performance driven bonuses and lack of consultation. I’ve worked in Asia, what is being proposed will be an epic failure. I want to work for qantas for the next 20 years also. If you are bleeding from a scratch on your leg you don’t fly to Asia after cutting it off. You look after the wound and let it regain it’s strength. It’s the staff at qantas that are the backbone. When will management see that by engaging the staff will bRing untold success? I could ramble on for hours. I’m passionate about
    My job, I’ve seen 5 CEOs come and go and management turn-over is every 2-3 years. They see their own gain and care nothing for the long term viability and success of a great airline. The unions are not trying to break qantas or dictate terms. It’s a matter of ensuring the long term future of a great company and keeping its greatest asset(it’s staff) in the jobs they know and love.

  17. Don

    Keep up your strikes benne and you will have ultimate flexibility – unemployment.

    Business people who have been ripped off by qantas for years but remained loyal are flying Virgin now to avoid being delayed by some fat loudmouth union who thinks it is 1972 again.

    New planes, newer hosties and better service.

    Do you deserve more than someone else because of your 21 year of ‘giving’?

    A recession in Australia will sort out a lot of this nonsense

  18. Jim Rose

    the virgin business model is to join the competitive fringe around a dominant firm and then charge 5 cents less while cut costs to the bone.

    they get brilliant PR, so few in the media notice or highlight the lower wages and overheads.

  19. wreckage

    The ACCC should have let Qantas have Ansett, they’d then have had the scale to compete.

    But the company will die because it is illegal for Australian firms to grow beyond a certain arbitrary point.

    AWB and Graincorp could have merged to form a globally competitive grain handling and marketing company, same story. Both will eventually die as a result.

    In an open economy, the ACCC is not only unnecessary but destructive.

  20. Infidel Tiger

    The ACCC should have let Qantas have Ansett, they’d then have had the scale to compete.

    Didn’t they also block a merger with Air NZ?

  21. Infidel Tiger

    If you love your company Benne, stop being a prick and get back to work.

  22. wreckage

    IT, if it was there, they blocked it. Point is their actions have worked to decrease the players in the market locally, not increase it, and anyway, with fairly open economic borders a local monopoly should be rare enough to be dealt with case-by-case every 50 years or so when it happens.

  23. Jim Rose

    The ACCC should have let Qantas have Ansett

    There is a large literature on the failing firm defence. Some think allowing mergers of market leaders with failing firms is good for competition.

    To get merger clearance on the basis of the failing firm defence, the merging companies must provide sufficient, compelling evidence that the failing firm will inevitably leave the market without the merger and there is no less anti-competitive alternative.

    The basic rationale behind the doctrine is that since the failing firm would have left the market anyway due to its financial collapse, any harm to competition caused by the loss of an independent market player would arise regardless of the merger.

    Posner and Easterbrook described the failing firm defence as one of the most pernicious doctrines to ever arise in antitrust law.

  24. Benne
    You seem like you do actually care but I would suggest you are being mislead by your union. Your union has a vested interest in keeping everything in Australia so they can have as many fee payers as possible. So less workers means less money for them. The international business has been bleeding money for years and if you look back after privatisation a large proportion of the profits were selling off assets such as buildings and travel agents and also fuel hedging or trading oil. Further expansion into Asia is likely to make your job more secure and in many cases is the only way to expand. If the company makes a profit they can pay you. If there is any evidence that the engineers are not up to standard in Asia then you should present such evidence to CASA. The fact that you are passionate about your job suggests that management is successful at least to some extent and you have been treated ok over the years otherwise you would leave. The union is putting out damaging information which does not seem to be backed up by truth such as Qantas operations in Asia are of a lower safety standard than that of Australia. This may be true in some countries or some airlines (other Australian operated airlines also based on the number of groundings) but I think Qantas values its safety record so would not let this slip.

  25. Boris

    I have no idea whether qantas management is good or bad. Obviously Joyce is not stve jobs but may be ok, may be not. But even if they are completely wrong and unions right, there is no way the unions can run the company. It does not work this way.

  26. Boris

    does anyone know what triggrred a 70% pay rise for Joyce? Sounds like a strange idea after a year that saw 30% decrease of stock price, not to mention union action.

  27. 2dogs

    “the top captains earn over $500,000 per year”

    Why do we pay these guys so much more than truckies?

    I mean, both professions involve getting heavy machinery from point A to point B, but the truckie has to deal with lunatics on the road.

    Is it really because:

    * the pilot’s uniform includes epaulettes, while the truckie’s includes buttcrack; and,

    * the woman who brings the pilot his coffee calls him “captain”, while the woman who brings the truckie his coffee calls him “love”?

  28. Marky Mark

    I think being an airline pilot is a *bit* more complicated. 😛

  29. Judith Sloan

    Don”t forget that Ansett was voted Employer of the Year by the ACTU in the year before it went broke. Something in that.

    Qantas is returning about 4 per cent on the capital employed – well below the cost of the capital. It is only a matter of time unless there is radical change.

    The licenced engineers have to realise that the world has changed bit time with the introduction of new planes and that their role will never be the same. Happens to lots of occupations – adjust.

  30. .

    I think being an airline pilot is a *bit* more complicated.

    Really? Most of the difference stems from the cost in training.

    Fuck me they fly autopilot most of the way.

  31. Benne

    I’ll try to address a few issues here. Regarding new technology aircraft I’ll use the a380 as an example. Although new, it’s complexities are so great that it requires double the amount of engineers to maintain it compared to a 747. That is a cold fact and this is using the ‘new’ European model of maintenance. The analogy of an old
    Car to a new car being used is wildly inaccurate. Pilots are paid well because they hold 450 lives in their hands. If the aircraft breaks down in flight you can’t just pull to the side of the road. The reason qantas pilots are flying less than other airlines is a management mistake in scheduling their hours and now with the contraction of the international service they will fly even less. Again through no fault of their own. As for the international business, I agree there is some losses but this is mainly due to wrong aircraft purchases and allowing jetstar to feed of the international parent. There is something in the order of 30 flights previously qantas that has been gifted to jetstar. However the costs have been met by qantas. Anyone who works directly on both aircraft can give countless examples. Jetstar does not fund itself, qantas incurs the costs but loses the revenue. I’m proud to work for qantas, my skill set only allows me to be a licenced engineer. I can’t go down the road and get another job in another field. Yes I could work for
    Another airline but I’m proudly Australian and believe qantas is the pinnacle of aviation in Australia. I want to be a part of our international airline and that heritage. I agree virgin is on a role but this has occurred due to mis-management at Qf. Borghetti was groomed to be CEO of Qf but Dixon for whatever reason chose his successor to qantas’s loss. Virgin engineers are paid more and are building a hangar in Syd now to bring maintenance in-house. As for the alaea, it is a tiny union. There are 1600 licenced engineers in qantas. Perhaps total membership is under 8000. You would never to confirm that with the alaea. My point being, they are not about justifying their income. Qantas view engineering as a cost. I view it as a necessity. The airline was started with a pilot and engineer!!!! Qf has said they want 1000 jobs gone by April based on 5 aircraft retirements. Their plan is to retire 20 in total. By their logic that’s 5000 jobs. This is the core problem. Cutting jobs,shrinking international flights and aircraft and re-investing in Asia in a high risk strategy where Qf has admitted they are a minority owner with majority funding makes no sense. My union has only with-held overtime and very minor stop-work meeting. This is sanctioned by fwa. This situation has arisen after 12 months of fruitless negotiations. The previous eba took over 2 years. This one is at 1 year and counting. No engineer has stopped working or caring. I can promise you if we stopped working the aircraft stop too. It took me 10 years of constant training and exams to become a licenced engineer. If I make a mistake, it can costs lives and I can be charged with manslaughter. Aircraft maintenance is governed by federal law. Whether people like it or not,flying safety is in the hands of the pilots,engineers and aircraft manufacturers. I know I’m rambling but it’s hard to convey the issues at hand. The engineers are not bringing back the days of the 70’s or trying to direct the company. We are trying to maintain qantas and in doing so I get to feed my children and pay
    My mortgage etc. here’s hoping I can do that still long into the future

  32. johno

    they fly autopilot most of the way

    I think it is the bit before they turn on the autopilot and, most importantly, the bit after they turn it off, is where they earn their money.

    Most truckies don’t routinely try to get their heavy piece of machinery into the air, and if they do, they generally don’t land them all that well.

    I know who I would prefer to fly with. 🙂

  33. .

    …and the reason why there isn’t more competition is because learning how to fly is fairly costly and it is a natural barrier to entry. Perhaps we need to force pilots to price their labour inputs at average cost or marginal cost? Of course I am kidding.

    Most commercial pilots never actually directly pay for their training.

    Even if truckies don’t pay for it, it is a pittance compared to flying.

    If the training was cheaper the wages of pilots would fall from more competition.

  34. Jim Rose

    fairly costly and it is a natural barrier to entry

    many occupations require muti-year investments in formal education followed ny many years of part-time on-th-job training and learning by doing to learn the ropes and keep up with new technologies and ideas.

    a cost that is the same for all members and potential entrants into an industry is not a barrier to entry. Incumbents made those same investments themselves.

  35. Benne

    Don’t you think that if Qantas has more investments in Asia with a growing market that would make your job more secure as it will reduce the reliance on Australian income? It should be remembered that you have not lived through a proper downturn and Australia has had record continuous economic growth since 1991. All good times come to an end at some time so when there is next a recession how do you think Qantas will cope if it has not diversified its income. My personal view about industrial relations is actually that wages should be set centrally because it is economic waste to have negotiations and on average both parties will lose. Consider if your union fees are 1% of your income and Qantas spends about the same then that is a 2% economic loss relative to your wage. This is not counting the industrial action costs such as now where both parties it seems will get burnt. I am not particularly apportioning blame. If for arguement your pay is minimum wage times 3.5 for an aircraft engineer, would you be happy if your pay remained at that ratio? This way you know where you stand and so does Qantas.I know is an unusual concept just get paid for what you do as both political parties like to keep this negotiation thing happening and so do the unions and employers because they think they can win and it gives unions a job but of course on average they (worker and employer) must lose as money is being taken out of the system to pay for the negotiations and that does not include the other costs such as is happening now. This would not stop an employer from paying a bonus if they wish but they would be under no obligation to keep that bonus if things get tough for example or there are surplus employees. Benne keep rambling I am.

  36. hzhousewife

    “My personal view about industrial relations is actually that wages should be set centrally because it is economic waste to have negotiations and on average both parties will lose.”
    Since you are talkative atm Kelly, can you please explain whether you mean this statement to apply just within Victoria, within Australia, within Asia, OR,
    worldwide ??

  37. Jim Rose

    economic waste to have negotiations

    explains the boundary of the firm with the market, and why most workers are on implicit long-term contracts with agreement for annual review based on market rates.

  38. Housewife

    Australia. Many countries only have a minimum wage but I think is better to have the whole system set out as in every skill level etc. should be covered.

  39. Jim Rose

    wages should be set centrally

    will there be regional and state-by-state wage variations as city and country allowance?

    how do you handle the large firm wage premium of 30%?

    was the old national award system a success?

  40. Australia could handle standardisation but may need a phase in time. No the old wages system was not a complete success, that was negotiated award by award with about the same level of waste and uncertainty (i assume you mean the old award system not enterprise agreements). The wage premium is a bonus so that is not a problem. Of course every country has to do their own thing but just saying my idea could be a good template so as to ensure certainty and skills eg the scales not the basic rate, of course with Australian wages being probably 5 or 10 times the average it would be impossible to increase a basic wage from $2 per day in a poor country to about $120 per day as it is in Australia.

  41. Benne

    Seems a good concept Kelly but logistically tough. Appears I have more pressing concerns now, like do I still have a job,do we still have qantas, and how will I feed my kids. Nearly 22 years service and a CEO and inept board may just kill the formerly great airline. Anyone got an aircraft in their backyard that needs maintaining by a highly skilled,professional engineer who has never done any more than work hard and safely his entire career?

  42. Infidel Tiger

    Nearly 22 years service and a CEO and inept board may just kill the formerly great airline.

    Get fucked. Unions have killed Qantas.

  43. Gab

    like do I still have a job,

    You want job security, join the public service. Otherwise join the rest of the world in understanding that ‘jobs for life’ concept disappeared in the ’80s.

  44. wreckage

    Marky Mark: studies on the cognitive load of pilots and truckies have found the truckie has to make far more decisions per minute for a far longer time. Please don’t tell anyone or truckies will need a PhD to drive, leading to two things:

    Guys with excellent spatial reasoning but poor academic skills will be selected OUT of a career that they are superior in.

    60+ tonne vehicles with multiple articulation points travelling at 100 kph will be driven by academics and we will all be killed.

  45. wreckage

    many occupations require muti-year investments in formal education followed ny many years of part-time on-th-job training and learning by doing to learn the ropes and keep up with new technologies and ideas.

    And in many of those, this is all an industry-backed barrier to entry so the current players can rake in more cash; OR the result of government paranoia and take-no-risks blame-someone-else litigation paralysis.

    All trade training is pure barrier-to-entry; you need permission from a tradie to go into competition with him, and even then you have to work for shit wages for several years and he can always fire you instead of permitting you into the industry.

    Lots of basic legal, accountancy and medical gruntwork could be done with a TAFE certificate, with a highly qualified individual as oversight (this is done in the former two, in the latter an insistence on avoiding it has led DIRECTLY to the massive growth in alternative medicine, especially in rural areas).

  46. Peter Patton

    Ah, those were the days of the autopilot! And they want a pay rise?

  47. Peter Patton

    wreckage

    Indeed, I have heard that David beckham has been offered $20 million a year to drive frozen peas from the Gulf to the Yagoona Coles.

  48. Peter Patton

    The ACCC Sir Reg should have let Qantas Bob have Ansett

  49. Benne

    Unions have not killed qantas. Terrible management has. Are you an employee? Do you work in the aviation sector? Please hold your abuse unless you are well-versed in both sides of this dispute. No union has held qantas to ransom,no union has grounded the fleet. No union has tried to relocate the company overseas. I don’t expect a guarantee of life employment but if qantas is based in Australia and needs my skills which they do, I expect them to acknowledge that. The pilots have said if its a qantas flight number then it should be qantas pilots. Never have they said jetstar pilots should be paid extra. There is so many lies and frankly I’m astounded that there are so many people who are willing to believe 1 sided arguments from a company willing to sacrifice its entire customer base,staff and Australia because it won’t negotiate in good faith when asked to prove an overseas strategy using qantas funding is a good idea. Come on Australia, see the big picture not what you read in trashy newspapers

  50. wreckage

    when asked to prove an overseas strategy using qantas funding is a good idea

    I’ll cede every other point if you cede that Qantas shouldn’t have to prove anything to anyone but its shareholders.

    If we can start from there, we have some common ground.

  51. Benne

    Im a shareholder as are most staff. Wouldn’t you want your staff onboard for the grand vision? The probs are wide and varied. One prob is the lie that qantas doesn’t fund jetstar. It does, daily in fact. When they talk qantas international market share they don’t add jetstar international flights into that which qantas gave them. I’m happy to listen to opinions and attempt to explain mine. It’s what makes Australia great. I just hope people will seek out a balanced view.

  52. .

    One prob is the lie that qantas doesn’t fund jetstar. It does, daily in fact.

    Bullshit. So you’re saying the strategy management proposes for the Asian hub is a loss making plan?

  53. Benne

    Guarantee it will lose money. Take a look at jetstar pacific for a start

  54. Benne

    Guarantee it will lose money. Take a look at jetstar pacific for a start

  55. LHN

    Benne you certainly have my support. What Joyce and his executive have done to you, your colleagues and the traveling public is outrageous. I saw a great quote by Jane Caro “Apparently growing up as a working class boy in Ireland feeds your determination to act like an English landowner during the potato famine”

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