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.