In all the commentary about Qantas, a number of persons, some of whom should know better (including that stockbroking nit-wit who talks to Jon Faine – great advertising, if you can get it) have accused Alan Joyce of doing the wrong thing by locking out the workers in October 2011.
This is just a flavour of what he was up against (the outlined events occurred between 13 April 2011 and 29 October 2011) :
- Union (ALAEA) notifies Qantas of protected industrial action in the form of a one hour stoppage at all Australian ports between 8 am and 9 am;
- A single employee, the president of ALAEA, engages in a one hour stoppage;
- ALAEA notifies Qantas of protected industrial action in the form of indefinite overtime bans and 2 hour stoppages between 1 am and midday in Melbourne;
- Ditto Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide/Darwin on successive days;
- ALAEA notifies Qantas of one minute work stoppage for 15 July 2011, overtime bans and a limitation on how work is customarily performed;
- AIPA notifies Qantas of protected industrial action by long haul pilots in the form of bans on complying with Qantas’ in-flight announcement policy and performing work in a manner different from that which is customarily performed;
- AIPA notifies Qantas of protected industrial action by two long haul pilots in the form of two minute work stoppages;
- Pilots start making AIPA endorsed passenger announcements;
- One pilot implemented a ban on working days off;
- One pilot engages in two, two minute stoppages;
- NUW notifies Qantas of national wide 24 hour stoppages;
- ALAEA notifies Qantas of one hour stoppages each weekday from 25 August to 16 December;
- ALAEA notifies Qantas of protected industrial action in the form of weekend overtime bans;
- TWU notifies Qantas of 4 hour stoppages in all mainland cites and higher duties ban of 48 hours duration;
- ALAEA notifies Qantas of full shift stoppages at the heavy maintenance facilities (Avalon and Brisbane)
- TWU notifies Qantas of one hour stoppages at 8 am at all major airports;
- ALEA calls off four hour work stoppages due to start later that day;
- TWU members (baggage handlers and ground crew) engage in two, two hour work stoppages in Melbourne and Sydney;
- TWU lodges an application with Fair Work Australia for a good faith bargaining order, claiming Qantas breached good faith obligations by notifying TWU members through a ‘late-night post delivery’ that Qantas would not accept part performance;
- TWU rejects Qantas offer of 3% pa pay increase, a 1% increase to superannuation, no forced redundancies for the life of the agreement;
- TWU notifies Qantas (date of AGM) of a one-hour stop-work meeting;
- Ground staff participate in nationwide one hour stop meeting.
Notwithstanding multiple attempts at conciliation and meetings between management and union leaders (including Alan Joyce meeting Tony Sheldon on 15 October), nothing was resolved.
On 29 October 2011, Qantas grounded all its domestic flights with effect from 5 pm and locked out employees (licensed engineers, ground staff and long haul pilots) covered by collective agreements.
So for those of you who think there was some alternative for Joyce, think again. These three unions were effectively waging a (legal) guerilla campaign against Qantas and note that every time there was a stoppage, even for one minute, it was Qantas’ legal requirement to dock the pay of the workers taking the action.
And the reason that Qantas did not take the matters to the tribunal to seek a suspension or termination of protected industrial action – they would have lost.
As the decision read:
It is unlikely that the protected industrial action taken by the three unions, even taken together, is threatening to cause significant damage to the tourism and air transport industries…Protected industrial action is permissible under our system and has been now for many years and has been taken relatively frequently in the airline industry with successive bargaining rounds. In that respect, what we have heard indicates there are still prospects for a satisfactory negotiated outcome in all three cases.
I rest my case.