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268 responses to “Qantas industrial action thread”

  1. D.B. Valentine

    Alan Joyce has made a grave mistake. Emboldened by his massive pay rise the previous day & fresh from the Qantas AGM (where there was no hint of this sabotage) he has made a giant leap toward destroying Qantas and disrupting the travel arrangements of 80,000 of his customers. He say he is doing this all for them. Time will tell just how appreciative his customers will be. This marks the dawn of a new corporate terrorism. The Unions have to at least give notice when they are planning industrial action. Alan Joyce gave none! With the rise of the Occupy movement globally, I fear CEOs of the Joyce ilk will seek to wield their power in equally disruptive & callously aggressive ways in order to remain “competitive” and continue to seek to make unsustainable record profits perpetually. Quote from SMH: “Qantas’ decision to ground the entire Qantas fleet is “holding a knife to the nation’s throat” and CEO Alan Joyce has “gone mad”, the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) says.” What did Jon Ronson recently discover, 4% of CEOs are psychopaths. Alan Joyce fits the profile. These ‘people’ seriously aren’t fit for the responsibility that goes with such a position. Sack him… and deport the turd!

  2. andyc

    When there is still anybody in the world subsisting on less than $1 a day, a lot of people in Australia are barely keeping above water, and Qantas staff just want an extra $1/hour, it is simply not possible that anyone being (over)paid nearly $3 million a year can justify a pay rise of another 2 million. A pay rise like this would not be appropriate if Joyce had created new jobs and improved services. Since he has done the opposite, it is the height of greed and hypocrisy.

    I have seen some comment that the reason for the egregious size of the increase is because he didn’t get a cash bonus in the last couple of years. Which is no excuse. If performance was poor in those years, there should be no bonus, and certainly no later compensation for not getting a bonus! The shareholders who voted for this reward-them-if-they-fail idiocy should be ashamed of themselves, and it is time that corporate law was revised to clamp down on the ridiculous sense of entitlement that has become part of CEO culture.

  3. Mercurius

    I’m sorry this is such a distasteful comparison, but I can’t think of any label more apt — this just seems to me like a corporate version of suicide bombing; complete with meticulous planning and deliberate intent to wreak as much collateral damage as possible on bystanders.

  4. andyc

    Merc @ 3: Distasteful it may be, but the analogy has considerable validity. I consider this an attack by unfriendly foreign forces on a piece of strategic national infrastructure, with, as you say, a lot of indiscriminate collateral damage.

    Looking forward to any class actions that arise from inconvenienced and distressed attempted passengers and freight clients…

  5. kellsy

    What amazing deja vu!

    Sir Peter Abeles pulled much the same stunt in 1989 during the Airline Pilots Dispute by shutting down the airline system rather than negotiating with the pilots.

    Abeles’ good mate PM Hawke then taxpayer-funded the airlines for their ‘lost business’ to the tune of $100 million and provided Abeles with military aircraft at well below cost price to transport passengers around. Abeles’ other good mate and joint-owner Rupert Murdoch, also provided lots of sympathetic media coverage for the actions of Abeles and Hawke, as well as lots of boo-hiss coverage of the pilots for ‘holding the nation to ransom’ and bankrupting the travel industry.

    Interesting to see if a similar scenario plays itself out again.

  6. John Edmond

    Are we trying to mimetically critique Qanta’s overreach? In which case this is like BLdhglghggnogisdhgo

  7. mediatracker

    There are some interesting links to be made in the current situation with Qantas, which include the points made by the TWU viz. http://www.twu.com.au/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?nodeguide=9296801d... (see especially the references to the Qantas Sale Act 2011 and also at p.12 et seq which gives a comparison of the executive payments with some of the pay rates of Qantas groundstaff?.

    The other fascinating links are those between Leigh Gifford and his position with Kolhberg Kravis Roberts, and in turn their links with the previous buyout offer for Qantas and Texas Pacific (now TPG), which was one of the private equity bidders at that time -( see for instance the entry in Wikipedia on TPG-Capital and the buyouts in partnerships with KKR for Sungard, Biomet and more, and quite importantly with TXU in 2007). TXU was the largest buyout in history at that time and was extremely important in relation to planning for management of environmental policy, carbon emissions and alternative energy.

    I’m not sure how many long bows one can draw, but the threads seem to me to be there and can likely be drawn in relation to the current bid for termination by Qantas management, which may bring some of these factors into play.

    Another link well worth the read in terms of Qantas is at
    cbe.anu.ed/capitalmarkets/…/ This was a presentation given at ANU by Justin O’Brien, Professor of Corporate Governance at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in 2007 which goes into some detail (among other fascinating details in relation to governance issues), about the previous Qantas bid. How many parallels can be applied?
    There are lots of cliches which could be drawn on but to my mind the old faithful one “If it walks like a duck talks like a duck then it probably is a duck” seems the most apt.

  8. Ginja

    I again ask the question: unions face large fines for engaging in wildcat strikes, but it appears Qantas management can pull this stunt, leaving tens of thousands of people in the lurch, and are legally fine.

    Isn’t what’s good for the goose good for the gander? I remember Tony Abbott once saying that he was against special privileges for unions. It seems, however, employers can get away with the kind of reckless behaviour that would have trade unions deregistered.

    Alan Joyce – the employers’ equivalent of the BLF.

  9. mediatracker

    That should probably read – http://www.cbe.anu.ed/capitalmarkets/…/

  10. Huggybunny

    A government with guts would immediately Nationalise the Airline.
    I saw that sign on the little blue pig that flew over my house this morning.

  11. skip

    Testing the government, not the trade unions.

  12. Chris

    Ginja @ 8 – Qantas had to give notice to the unions of the lockout, and they did. The Qantas staff affected by the lockout are not actually locked out until Monday evening and are continuing to be paid until then.

    The decision to ground all the aircraft immediately based on safety concerns is in my opinion a pretty dodgy one. But presumably done to force the government to go to the Fair Work authority as soon as possible.

    From what Joyce was saying on inside businesses today if a termination order is issued then there is compulsory arbitration within about a month if the company is unable to come to an agreement with the unions. Now its obviously what Qantas want, but do the unions have anything to fear from compulsory and binding arbitration?

  13. Fran Barlow

    I’ve said this about the matter on Saturday Salon.

  14. Doug

    This could be the making of Virgin Australia – financially and in terms of public good will as the airline that got them home after an Irish Leprechaun caused an airline to disappear. The Virgin PR person on the news this morning could hardly hold back there enthusiasm over how they were going to help the punters

    Joyce’s timing is brilliant – it’s Melbourne Cup Tuesday and he just landed a 71% pay rise last week – a great PR start to the campaign.

  15. Steve at the Pub

    Yes Doug, and Virgin pays less, gets more work from their staff, and does more overseas outsourcing than Qantas.
    A Virgin ascendancy would be counter productive for those who desire maximum Australian labour content in their Australian airlines.

  16. Lefty E

    Aside from anything else, ASIC should be investigating QANTAS for failure to disclose matters likely to affect the share price – not least since they had a shareholders meeting 10 minutes before announcing this.

    Very shoddy – and probably unlawful – corporate practice.

    Lockouts should only be lawful after a secret ballot of shareholders – much like strikes. Just goes to show how one-sided that is.

    Again, Id like to see a consumer boycott of Jetstar follow this: stick the whole grubby strategy right back up Joyce’s arse.

  17. Ginja

    Chris, gee a day’s notice. And yes the unions do have something to fear from compulsory arbitration – the fact that Qantas will proceed with its plans to send all its maintenance jobs offshore. The actions by the unions were not about pay.

    I’m interested in another aspect of all this. Apart from the cosy domestic duopoloy it shares with Virgin – we should be take with a grain of salt the standard neoliberal claptrap about cut-throat global competition – doesn’t Qantas still have some protected air routes? I could be wrong about that. Anyone know?

  18. Mark Bahnisch

    Update [by MB]: I’ve written a substantive post, but comments are closed on it to keep them focused and centralised on this thread.

  19. Tyro Rex

    In Mark’s post there’s this;

    “There are also legal questions over whether extending the lockout to employees who were not engaging in industrial action, and standing down others, is lawful.”

    So, unions get hammered all the time now about secondary boycott provisions of the TPA, and Qantas just gets away with it?

  20. Mark Bahnisch

    I suspect it will be a major point raised before FWA.

  21. mediatracker

    In addition to the coverage on LP there is also a good range of coverage on the Financial Review which is not under a paywall over the weekend.

  22. Mark Bahnisch
  23. Fran Barlow

    Tingle raises an interesting point, but obviously wrote in a hurry. There are at least two proofing errors in her text:

    brinks for brings & uncharac{h}teristic …

  24. Chris

    Ginja – 48 hours, am guessing it’s symmetrical and the same required of unions?

    Tyro @ 19 – I thought those not in unions involved in the dispute were not locked out and will still be paid

    Mark – re your post – Joyce did not seem concerned about arbitration by FWA on inside business. Said it was preferable to the ongoing strikes

  25. Terangeree

    Chris @ 24:

    What “ongoing strikes”?

    I never knew that wearing a red tie to work was equal to a strike.

  26. Rob

    For fuck sake can somebody reconcile the “71% payrise”? The media herd have latched onto it cuz it’s a double digit number, but any sane individual would have to know it’s not in the context of a year-on-year comparison!

  27. sg

    Terangeree, that seems like a pretty sackable offence to me. A red tie? That is outrageous.

  28. Chris

    Terangee – I’d agree the pilots are being unfairly targeted because they haven’t been disruptive. The baggage handlers and the engineers certainly have though.

  29. Robert Merkel

    Yes, Qantas management are playing union-busting hardball, but it can’t be ignored that they appear to be facing a shit sandwich in the marketplace. While I accept that we’re not just workers and profit is not the only thing, I don’t think it can be just ignored either.

    The fact is that Virgin and Jetstar, as well as a whole passel of international carriers, can shift passengers from place to place cheaper than Qantas-legacy can.

    Particularly in the domestic arena, one of the major reasons for this appears to be that Virgin and Jetstar pay their workers less, and get more out of them, than Qantas does.

    In that situation, what do expect Qantas to do?

    As for sentiment, people buy airline tickets on three criteria: price, price, and price.

    So, what is it that people propose? That Qantas be subsidized so that Qantas employees keep their current working arrangements? A return to a highly regulated airline industry and $800 Melbourne-Sydney flights?

    Frankly, I think both ideas are stupid, from a “left-of-centre” point of view or not. If we are going to subsidize people’s wages, how about those in the lowest paid, least secure employment first? Or those without jobs? Or, for an alternative use of transport-related taxpayer funds, how about fixing Sydney and Melbourne’s public transport systems?

  30. Kim

    Robert – the whole point of enterprise level bargaining is to trade off productivity measures for wage increases, not to reduce labour costs as a gross charge. Qantas in all likelihood have not been down that path.

    The limits of price competition should also be clear when it comes to safety.

  31. Lefty E

    Even before recent developments, 43% supported renationalisation of QANTAS, a mere 34% against. http://www.essentialmedia.com.au/reversing-past-government-decisions/

    At least the public arent fooled by this crap.

    “In that situation, what do expect Qantas to do? ”

    Oh yes. It must be terribly coping with 65% domestic market share. I tell you what they should have done: capitalised on their excellent safety record, and the premium service model. Joyce did the opposite. The man is quite clueless: the brand was never a comfortable, its food and entertainment never top shelf, but its safety record was enviable and punters happily paid more for it. Punters, moreover,iked the idea that the work was done in Australia. Becuase it made it seem more reliable. Then engines started dropping off, and they refused to upgrade their ageing international 747 fleet.

    I see no one to blame for their predicaments (such as it is – it remains a profitable business) but QANTAS management themselves. And now what? Turning into yet another third rate Asian-based airline is called “vision”? Please.

  32. Sam

    Comment deleted which infringes commenting guidelines “Off-topic general political remarks” and “Imputing ideas or motives to others or stereotyping them because of perceived group membership”

  33. Ginja

    Chris, knowing how lopsided the industrial relations system is – even under the improved Fair Work Australia regime – I would never make the assumption that employers and empoyees are treated in the same fashion.

    The fact that unions are compelled to hold a ballot before a strike means that employers are usually give plenty of notice. If a rail union or TWU called a snap strike on such a scale the Right would go ballistic and the union would be facing a serious fine. If they were in the building industry and called a snap strike they would be frog-marched to the industry’s industrial star chamber and forced to spill the beans on what they knew about the strike.

    I have a feeling that Alan Joyce has seriously miscalculated. I think most Australians – in fact, just about everyone around the world save hard-core right-wingers – are thoroughly sick and tired of this kind of neolib thuggishness, especially in the post-GFC world.

    How’s about organising a consumer boycott of Qantas? People could sign up and refuse to travel with Qantas until Joyce backs down?

  34. Giles Anthrax

    A relative of mine is in the TWU.

    He tells me that Qantas are giving maintenance staff in Singapore training that is not being given to the Australian ground staff. The end result will be to transfer jobs from the untrained Australian staff to the trained (and cheaper) Singaporeans. The Australians will no longer be needed.

    So Qantas, to coin a Tony Abbottism, is exporting Australian jobs overseas.

    Obviously Qantas management is as evil and destructive (by Tony Abbotts standards) as the Carbon Tax. Expect full page denunciations on the front page of The Australian any time soon (not).

  35. Robert Merkel

    Kim – this column by Ken Phillips at Business Spectator suggests that they have tried to negotiate changes, but haven’t been able to match either Virgin or indeed their own Jetstar subsidiary:

    It really started with the introduction of Virgin airlines. When Virgin set up it began with workforce agreements that enabled a flexible use of staff in a way not before seen with Australian airlines. In comparison, Qantas runs like a bureaucracy – a hangover from when it was government-owned. People work in job description ‘pidgeon holes’ from which they don’t move. Pay rates and careers are structured accordingly. It’s all made legally binding on Qantas through formal industrial relations agreements.

    Virgin threatened the Qantas business. Unable to change their industrial agreements – or the work culture tied to the agreements – Qantas instead set up Jetstar. With a fresh workforce, culture and industrial agreements, Jetstar has matched and even bettered Virgin.

    But the success of Jetstar now even threatens Qantas, particularly on international routes. Take the simple example of checking website advertised airfares. A return Sydney-Tokyo flight with Qantas will cost around $2,300 for economy class, on a special deal. The Jetstar price is around $1200 for economy class and business class is priced at under $1800 – and this is not on sale. The price difference is enormous.

  36. Joe

    Mark wrote:

    Joyce’s actions and motivations are almost a parody of the globalising logic that profits are all, workers, customers and public service or good nothing.

    And then the FWA.

    It would be good, if there would be a debate about public good and economics without the references to the opportunities that this situation presents the “players”. It would be good if there would be a public discussion about the issues without a lot of mindless commentary about (political) strategy.

    And if that’s too high brow for everyone, than my second wish would be to report and describe in depth on the effects of the particular dispute. How is QANTAS’ policy effecting it’s employees? The quality/ cost of service? The culture of aviation and aviation skills and services in Australia? Who would QANTAS be outsourcing to? Who’s running the company? Why is Joyce CEO? etc.

    I guess, though, there will be a lot of cheap and (ultimately meaningless) debate about the political fortunes of the major parties, the big-end-of-towners and the Tunions. Everyone by now should be aware though, that such discussions weaken and distract from the real issues.

    (There needs to be a focus on the importance of work, not just in financial terms, or the emacerated “delivery of public goods and services.” In short we need a discussion about workplace relations, which doesn’t focus on deregulation and the narrow meaning of employee vs. employer but in the context of the public good of work.)

  37. Sam

    People could sign up and refuse to travel with Qantas until Joyce backs down?

    This is arse backwards. No one is travelling on Qantas now.

    How’s about organising a consumer boycott of Qantas?

    Are you kidding? What about my points?

    Qantas’ problem is that it is a ratshit airline. It isn’t high quality service (like say Singapore Airlines), which people will pay for. But neither is it cheap, like say Virgin, where people will put up with crappy service because it’s cheap.

  38. adrian

    Well having just flown to Hong Kong and back last week because Qantas was the cheapest flight available, I have to say that the service, food and entertainment was better than Malaysia airlines that I flew with last year and not too inferior to Singapore flown the year before.

    So it’s not quite as simple as Qantas is a ‘ratshit’ airline.
    It’s also not nearly as simple as Qantas has no alternative than to go for the low cost option.

  39. bmh

    Cancel Joyce’s visa! We will decide who comes to our shores!

  40. Ginja

    BTW Chris, Qantas didn’t stop the planes after 24 hrs – it was essentially immediate. It was almost like a train driver stopping between stops and telling passengers to look after themselves.

  41. Ronson

    “Cancel Joyce’s visa! We will decide who comes to our shores!”

    Don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve read many times this weekend that Joyce is an Australian citizen.

  42. Chris

    bmh – Joyce is an Australian citizen so that might be a bit hard

    Ginja @ 39 – I didn’t say that Qantas stopped the planes after 24 hours. Qantas stopped them immediately. *But* they didn’t lockout the workforce immediately and they are continuing to be paid. They cancelled all the flights but the union members effected are not locked out until Monday evening.

  43. sg

    yeah maybe we could can the nasty jokes about Irish people?

  44. adrian

    I agree with Bernard Keane on this one:

    Alan Joyce’s logic is the elegant reasoning of a terrorist.

    If the result of his massive disruption of the Australian transport system is the further shredding of the Qantas brand, which began under Geoff Dixon and which has accelerated rapidly under his Irish successor, and leads to further service cuts as Australians turns their back on the airline, that’s fine.

    It will merely expedite his plans to offshore-by-stealth Qantas, wrecking the Australian-based operation while he sets about establishing lower-cost, more competitive foreign-based services.

  45. Dr_Tad

    Seems to me that Gillard is doing exactly what Joyce wants: Calling for termination & arbitration, where the balance of forces will be tilted to management because the workers will have lost their industrial leverage (unless they are willing to break the law). Of course she’s pissed off because (a) Joyce didn’t come to her first and (b) this will expose how stacked against unions her law is, and that the government will be called upon to do an employer’s handiwork.

    How this situation can help a Labor government, as some commentators are suggesting, is beyond me.

  46. sg

    69155 people have voted on the Herald’s poll about the grounding, with 58% saying QANTAS have “gone too far.”

  47. Chris

    Dr Tad – because if it goes to compulsory arbitration and all the industrial action stop then Fair Work Australia will seen to be working?

  48. Joe


    yes but by your own account, you chose them because they were the cheapest. Last time I flew Qantas, I also chose them because they were the cheapest available. Some people would be prepared to fly Qantas and pay a “small” premium because they think the quality is better or they trust the brand, tradition, safety record, like VB, whatever. (I spent 22 hrs sitting next to two such exemplars…)

    But airlines the world over are in trouble, are they not? In the current global environment, how should a small player like Qantas survive? Swiss air couldn’t? Or some of the US carriers. The domestic market isn’t big enough to give it a secure financial base. Especially not in the current financial/ business environment.

    So, what happens if Australians become consumers-only of air-travel products because it becomes simply impossible to compete in the market? It means that you, as a Qantas shareholder, invest in all the industry and related industries offshore. Directly, you stimulate, for example, investment in pilot training and mechanical engineering somewhere offshore. It’s like saying– “oh, it’s just too hard.” (*)

    But in doing so, you give up control. (Shares are not democratic!)

    Why do we trust Alan Joyce? Why is he CEO? His milieu is international corporate management. If we assume that he is good a what he does, is being good at international corporate management good for air-travel? Probably about as good as Trujillo was for Telstra, or Rio Tinto managed the financial crisis. Would it be fair to say so?

    If you haven’t already done so, recommended reading is Going Postal. Especially the boardroom scenes with the clacks-engineer 😉

    (*) As a share holder you probably aren’t a qantas customer, or an Australian. You may be interested in improving Qantas technology to make it competitive in Australia– that would actually mean investing in associated industries. But asset stripping, UK style, is easier and safer.

  49. Robert Merkel

    Further to Kim’s point, I think it’s unrealistic for “productivity gains” – even ones well worth doing – to always be achieved painlessly.

    To take my own sector, Australian universities have acquired a management structure like a 1950s corporation. Gordon Gekko’s rant about Vice-Presidents at Teldar Paper could quite fairly be applied to the profusion of Pro and Deputy Vice-Chancellors and other highly-paid hangers on who have accumulated in central university bureaucracy.

    A rational reorganization of universities (in my view) would involve the removal of large parts of this bureaucracy and many of their responsibilities transferred back to the individual faculties and schools.

    This will, however, mean that a whole bunch of former academics on $200,000 a year will have to lose their sinecures and go back to – gasp – doing teaching and research as mere Professors on $130,000 a year.

    Now, it’s my personal view that the Australian university sector will be far better off if and when this happens. But if you’ve currently got one of these sweet gigs, it’s all downside.

  50. Sam

    sg, you must be kidding. You know perfectly well that internet polls are meaningless.

    Anyhoo, this dispute fits in perfectly with the 99% versus 1% theme of recent weeks. The bog Irishman with is $5 million pay packet sums it up perfectly. (We just need to ignore the fact that Qantas pilots are in the top 1% of income earners. The working class they are not).

  51. Michael

    If we’re going to boycott anything – boycott Jetstar, not Qantas. This thing is Joyce’s own creation, and the entity he plans to hand Qantas’s business to when he finally kills it off. He has been building Jetstar up at the expense of Qantas since its creation – things such as handing the most profitable routes to Jetstar, pushing as many passengers as possible on to Jetstar flights, even (this one is a beauty) ensuring that fares charged for multi-sector flights which include a single Jetstar leg are paid to Jetstar, regardless of how many other non-Jetstar legs there are.

    No if you want to get Joyce’s attention, boycott Jetstar – it really is a Ratshit airline.

  52. BilB

    There is a lot to this that we don’t know, I feel. When Macquarie bank attempted a raid on Qantas the shares were $5.00, now they are hovering around the $1.60 after having dipped to as low as $1.37 . So to now suspend the company’s entire business we have to wonder exactly whose interests Joyce is serving.

    One point that the press fails to clarify and that is the difference between share holders and share holdings. It is the share “holding” that carries the vote. The share holders are only partial participants depending on their holding. So when the press talks about the share holders voting for a remunerations package, this is a missrepresentation of the situation. The share holders voted down the package, the share holding upheld it.

    I believe that if the shares held on behalf of insurance and superannuation contributors carried the vote of those providing the money, then the vote would have gone to the negative.

    There is a very real possibility that what is at play here is the theft of an airline. With the shares at a very low level then by crippling revenue there can be only outcome, and that is sustaining that low share price for the time being. Macquarie bank could very well be eyeing the airline again but at just a third of what was required in their previous raid.

    Who else might be interested? With oil at $100 per barrel, there are those who are making massive profits, and that could well be the direction from which a quiet raid might come. What a connection, control of the main aviation industry cost item in a no lose marriage of interests with a global leader free of the high cost employment constraint of the Australian people.

    What is in it for Joyce? Well he gets his massive payout in several years time based on his new income status, and moves onwards and up the CEO ladder towards 0.5% heaven.

  53. Rob

    @ 44

    “too far” with what sg? the lockout or pulling the fleet?

    the former was a last ditch attempt at SAVING the business. you know, the negotiations weren’t workin’ and all. the latter was its corollary cuz you can’t fly an airplane without a pilot and you sure as hell ain’t gonna send it in the air ex-maintenance.

    stop reading news ltd polls: they’ll warp your mind.

  54. Darryl Rosin

    Robert @ 34 (and earlier)

    That Business Spectator article sets my teeth on edge like a particularly bad Green Left Weekly piece. A “workers’ collective” will run QANTAS? Give me a break.

    Boilerplate claims about “job security” are de rigueur in EB negotiations and are quickly ‘set aside’ and never returned to. And workplaces can embed changes to their work practices through EB, but (and in QANTAS’ case this seems to be a big but) they need to have some idea about what outcome they want and how they want to get there. The “cultural” problem in QANTAS is in its management, not the people moving luggage on and off conveyor belts.

    Have a look a Bed Sandilands at Crikey’s Plane Talking:

    It is important not to allow history to be rewritten by Qantas in relation to the rise of its foreign competitors. They didn’t force Qantas off routes to what have now become enormously important ‘secondary’ cities in Europe, or the more recently emerging routes to central Asia, northern Africa or ex Soviet era eastern Europe.

    Qantas failed serve those routes, except via London, and its competitors filled the gap. If Emirates and Thai International and Singapore Airlines in particular had not demonstrated business acumen in flying one-stop to those destinations from Australia, the really valuable contribution Germany and the continent in general makes to Australian tourism would not have occurred as quickly or efficiently.

    That growth has very little to do with the tired old anglo-centric view of the world that has seen Qantas struggle to understand new sources of long haul growth and persist with its ghastly reliance on transferring passengers to British Airways at London Heathrow, or for those who have been especially bad, via London Gatwick…

    From next March Qantas actually halves its direct participation in the London market by seeking to hand the completion of two out of four daily flights to Heathrow to British Airways, a clever move that will undoubtedly persuade even more of its customers to switch instead to all-the-way carriers like Emirates or Singapore Airlines.

    It makes the claimed Qantas commitment to tourism look shonky… Which means that much of the evidence the government provided about the national economic importance of air travel to tourism late last night is of reduced applicability to Qantas…

    It can be argued that the problems that Qantas claim to be experiencing are self inflicted, in that it chose not to address its major cost problem, fuel, with an appropriate investment in more fuel efficient airliners, such as the 777, and is now cutting back on its A380 orders, which is even more fuel efficient on trunk routes where slots or demand make a nonsense of services in anything but the biggest jet available.

  55. Dr_Tad

    Chris @45

    But if it’s seen that really the Act is so heavily pro-employer and Joyce gets most of what he wants, it undercuts one of the last remaining progressive credentials the government has.

  56. Dr_Tad

    Darryl @52

    Sandilands is right, but the key issue is that airlines face much increased (and very real) competitive pressures for both long-term reasons and more so since the GFC. It requires a clear politics of saying that workers will not accept the logic of a race to the bottom — even if that limits Qantas’ profitability — to really take these corporate scumbags on.

    The #occupy movement represents those kinds of politics in embryonic form, a rejection of the logic of late capitalism. Hopefully those kinds of ideas are in Qantas employees’ heads too.

  57. Rob

    Robert Merkel is the only one making any commercial sense of this topic right now.

  58. Darryl Rosin

    And Robert @47 makes my point against his earlier comment very well.

    ‘Cause, you know, all those PVCs et al are NOT COVERED by the EB process. On the contrary, the Universities seek to maintain and increase the layers of senior management by screwing down EB covered staff. (Cause, you know, its the administrative staff that are always the problem in any large organisation. If I had a dollar for every time an academic told me, to my face, that administrative staff are the biggest problem facing the University… but I digress.)


  59. adrian

    It was a Fairfax poll actually.

    You are correct Michael – Jetstar really is a ratshit airline, and it’s the only future an idiot like Joyce can see.

  60. sg

    Rob, the herald isn’t news limited, and it’s their choice of words, not mine.

    I think I’m well aware that internet polls aren’t reflective of reality. But the number of responses is perhaps reflective of how controversial the issue is …

  61. Joe

    Well, it’s clear that productivity gains are possible, but not competitive.

    Off-shoring, or something along the lines of what Bilb says above is a more financially profitable alternative.

    But this once again simply shows the cleft that has developed between economic profit and public good.

    As Stiglitz says, productivity gains, or investment in research and technology, benefit the community in ways, which are not merely financial.

  62. Steve at the Pub

    Someone is referring to the Fair Work Act as “employer friendly”, with a straight face?

    Please commenters, please, we know this site ain’t exactly Mastermind, but do try to maintain some credibility.

  63. Joe

    internet polls aren’t reflective of reality.

    Don’t want to be too picky but they do reflect reality. The problems start with their interpretation…

  64. Kim

    I don’t concede that it’s clear at all. It’s been asserted by Qantas management not demonstrated.

  65. Fran Barlow

    [email protected] proposed:

    So, what is it that people propose? That Qantas be subsidized so that Qantas employees keep their current working arrangements?

    I’d be surprised if that were necessary in practice. Yet even if it were, so what? It’s not as if the government doesn’t subsidise far worse things than that. It’s also not as if the government doesn’t allow the ultra rich to evade being adequately taxed either.

    A return to a highly regulated airline industry and $800 Melbourne-Sydney flights?

    Not at all. Things have moved on from those days. I’d like to see QANTAS operate to be a “best practice” in customers service, comfort, safety, employee benefits and environmental practice airline and charge whatever it took to break even or go close.

    Frankly, I think both ideas are stupid, from a “left-of-centre” point of view or not. If we are going to subsidize people’s wages, how about those in the lowest paid, least secure employment first?

    We already do, through social security provision. I’m fine with that being extended of course. That’s not an either/or.

    Or those without jobs?

    As above

    Or, for an alternative use of transport-related taxpayer funds, how about fixing Sydney and Melbourne’s public transport systems?

    I’ve no problem with that but it’s scarcely on topic here. We don’t have to choose. There’s a benefit to having a jurisdiction where big capitalists can’t simply do as they please with their workers and screw the public for s**ts & giggles. If even workers as strategically placed as those at QANTAS can’t defend themselves, how are casual shop assistants going to go? Not well.

    The labour movement has been in persistent retreat for the last 30 years, much of it under ALP administrations. It’s long past the time to draw a line and push back, but now might just be the moment when people say — enough! We know how this story ends and we’re changing the ending!.

  66. Ginja

    Chris, it was essentially an immediate stoppage – something no union could get away with.

  67. adrian

    Well said, Fran.

  68. Steve at the Pub

    Strictly speaking Ginja, that would be the case only if the pay stoppage was immediate.
    If Qantas continues to pay the staff until Monday evening, then it is a horse of a different colour.

  69. Robert Merkel

    Interesting interview on Inside Business this morning with academic Greg Bamber.

    On another topic, here’s a thought experiment for you – what happens if Qantas never flies again?

  70. Steve at the Pub

    Here’s one with several pre-booked & paid airfares over the next few months. And my business is somewhat dependant upon Qantas feeding customers to me.
    Qantas never flying again is a somewhat horrific thought.
    Declaration: Qantas are an occassional customer, usually of some size. They always pay promptly & cheerfully, which is very welcome.

  71. Dr_Tad
  72. Robert Merkel

    That’s a very interesting link, Dr. Tad.

    If Bandt is right that the arbitration process is systematically biased against workers, that’s a far bigger concern than the specifics of the Qantas dispute itself.

  73. Dr_Tad

    Robert @71

    The historical record would support that, despite the way that union leaders have tied themselves to the system (and the state). It’s one of the great unexplored areas of Left historiography about the nature of the workers’ movement in this country.

    I would say that the complex legal conditions that lead to arbitration under the FWA make that bias even greater today. They quickly rob the workers of the only real leverage they have — industrial action.

  74. Dr_Tad

    Tribunal resumes at 8.45pm. The judges will declare for either (a) termination or (b) suspension. Joyce can still keep jets grounded if he doesn’t get preferred option (a). Then it would be on the basis of “safety” or “operational” reasons under option (b). After all, he’s the boss.

    I’m betting Joyce gets his way because judges know that he is willing to call their bluff in case of (b) and so they will look irrelevant. But we shall see…

  75. Mark Bahnisch

    Well, the left (industrial and political) has always opposed arbitration, but Bandt is actually wrong on the detail. If FWA makes orders to stop industrial action, the parties only have 21 days to negotiate if it indicates that it will arbitrate, which as I noted, it has the power to do so in this instance. It appears more likely, in this instance, from what the parties have put before the FWA hearing, that there will be a suspension of the bargaining period during which conciliation will occur, and that would also imply a suspension of the industrial action (by both parties) rather than an order to terminate the industrial action, which would trigger the arbitration after 21 days.

  76. Mark Bahnisch

    Dr_Tad, I don’t think Joyce would be that stupid, although…

  77. Robert Merkel

    Is there some kind of essential services legislation that could be used to order Qantas to fly its jets in the scenario Dr. Tad [email protected]?

  78. Steve at the Pub

    Mark: I’ll take issue with your remark #75.
    Joyce is many things, but stupid isn’t one of them. His actions, though bold, far reaching, damaging, etc, are neither impulsive nor cavalier.
    If he makes a decision, it’ll be with the outcome carefully considered.
    He’d make one helluve poker or chess player.

  79. Mark Bahnisch

    The other point I’d make, here, is that in terms of productivity, there’s a good case that one of the flaws in the enterprise bargaining process that productivity failings are just as, if not more, likely to be because of management inefficiency, power and obsession with control than with work practices.

    The various unions have produced evidence that suggests that the premise (Qantas is not internationally competitive, no one questions its domestic profitability) is a false one. What will be a result of either conciliation or arbitration is scrutiny of its claims. I’m sure the unions will be retaining some forensic accountants.

  80. Robert Merkel

    Malcolm Maiden outlines some of the specifics of the disagreements.

  81. Mark Bahnisch

    There may or may not be, Rob, though I’d tend to think there would.

    But I doubt it’s a likely scenario.

  82. Mark Bahnisch

    I’d also observe, further to my point at 77, that I’d be very sceptical of anything in the business/financial press on the specifics of Qantas’ financial situation. The bias of publications like the AFR and Business Spectator in industrial matters is rightly notorious.

  83. Dr_Tad

    Mark B, when you say “the left (industrial and political) has always opposed arbitration” I’m not sure what you mean. The ALP and most union leaders have accepted arbitral structures for most of the time since Federation. Of course there have been partial breaks from this, or bargaining above and beyond that system, but the so-called “independent umpire” of the state is the backbone of the IR system. This has massive consequences, I think, for the politics of workers’ struggles even when unions or political parties (e.g. the CPA) try to break from it, that have not really been worked through… I only have some rudimentary thoughts myself.

    I know Adam skirts over the 21 day thing, but Joyce has made clear he won’t be talking so it’ll be a short wait to what he expects is a win on most of the essentials.

    Is Joyce “stupid” enough? I don’t think he’s been stupid at all. He’s got Gillard dancing to his tune and still has cards left in his nasty little pack to play. He’s using the Fair Work Act as an employer should.

  84. Dr_Tad

    On Qantas financial position: It has $3 billion in cash reserves. But it also faces a very difficult global situation for airlines. Profit rates are down and driving up the rate of exploitation is the only way to stay competitive in corporate terms.

  85. Mark Bahnisch

    No, that’s not right, Dr_Tad. Much of the industrial left consistently opposed arbitration, and it’s a continuing theme in the culture of some unions. At times, there was pragmatic acceptance of it, but when conditions appeared germane, there was more often than not an attempt to circumvent it.

    The CPA made its peace with it in the Accord years, but that’s another story.

    Basically, it was a combination of a sort of syndicalist economism, and the sort of distrust of state institutions which you usually display.

  86. Mark Bahnisch

    @83 – really, Dr_Tad? You’re content to take their own claims as gospel?

  87. Mark Bahnisch

    He’s using the Fair Work Act as an employer should.

    He doesn’t have a choice if he’s ordered to enter into conciliation.

  88. sg

    Oh the sweet sweet irony of the minority labor government losing the support of the Greens in the house because they aren’t pro-worker enough. After all the posturing the industrial left has engaged in over the past 10 years about the Greens being more interested in the environment than workers.

    It would be terrible, but a delicious irony.

  89. Dr_Tad

    Mark @85:

    Why would it not be true that the global situation is difficult? The GFC opened the space for many airlines to slash staff and drive up exploitation, thus increasing competition. This is just how competition works. That’s why Joyce wants to act preemptively, to shore up Qantas’ position in that race to the bottom.

  90. sg

    I thought that despite the global situation Qantas was doing better than most other airlines? I remember in the wake of 9/11 they were one of the few airlines to continue being profitable. Have things really gone so pear-shaped since then? Or is this talk of the difficulties of competition and the global situation a misconception being manipulated by Qantas?

    On the other hand, if they are suffering in a competitive environment, how much of that is to do with the growth of the Asian airline industry? Japan is also struggling in this regard.

  91. Fiona

    Price, price, price…

    Which is why I travel by train between Melbourne and Sydney, and only fly Qantas when there is absolutely no other way of getting where I have to go (there always is an alternative, by the way…).

  92. Salient Green

    @ 89, Ross Greenwood was saying this morning that Qantas was cashed up and Dr Tad has supported that @ 83 with a figure of $3 billion. How ‘cashed up’ is consistent with ‘suffering in a competitive environment’ I don’t know.
    ‘Suffering’ in Supercapitalist speak must be ‘making less than Super profits’.

  93. Dr_Tad

    Salient @91

    Well, this is the essence of the issue. You can have cash but not want to invest because your rate of return won’t be high enough until you drive it up by restructuring & increasing the rate of exploitation. Joyce wouldn’t be doing this unless he thought he could do serious damage to union efforts to resist his plans — importantly, with a weakened government doing his bidding so as to avert national catastrophe.

    He clearly thinks arbitration will give him a very good result.

  94. BilB

    SatTP 77

    I think that you assume too much. It seems to me that Alan Joyce is the airline equivalent to Sol Trujilo. Not every executive has business building skills, some know only how to rearrange in order to make an impact, others know only how to contract businesses in order to maintain “relative” profitability.

  95. Mr Denmore

    I don’t think the commentariat appreciates that as far as the bulk of the population is concerned, Qantas is still a nationally owned flagship. Yes, it was privatised in 1995, but it carries a sort of implied government guarantee and retains the legislative protection against majority foreign ownership. This means that it’s nakedly commercial attempts to stay profitable by setting up a cheap version of itself in Asia doesn’t sit well with people’s concept of what it is. That’s why Joyce’s attempt to use public sentiment about Qantas to pursue margin expansion could come back and bite him badly. This is not 1998 and this is not the waterfront. Something has changed since then.

  96. Mark Bahnisch

    @92 – yes, but he might think wrong!

  97. Mr Denmore

    Oh I meant to say that you could apply Joyce’s logic to many businesses. Where do you stop?

  98. Chris

    Dr_Tad – yes, it appears Qantas would make more money keeping their cash in a bank account than from investing it in the business.

  99. Chris

    Is the qantas situation much different to say the car industry in Australia? Very few people willing to pay a premium for Australian made and so it’s slowly all moving overseas

  100. Darryl Rosin

    Robert @71

    “If Bandt is right that the arbitration process is systematically biased against workers, that’s a far bigger concern than the specifics of the Qantas dispute itself.”

    (I apologise in advance that this is going to come off way more bitchy than I would like.)

    Robert, have you paid much attention to IR in the past? Because my initial response to the above is “Well, DUH!”


  101. Mark Bahnisch

    By the way, Dr_Tad, I have no idea why Adam Bandt thinks that an arbitrated settlement would not satisfy the unions on job security clauses. FWA has intervened in several ongoing enterprise agreements where unions have brought complaints about the interpretation of, or to enforce such clauses.

    The other signal ommission in his analysis (which seems to rely much more on memories of how Howard era legislation operated when he was a lawyer than on recent jurisprudence and industrial practice) is the effect of a finding that Qantas had not been bargaining in good faith.

  102. Mark Bahnisch

    I’d just also observe that there’s a certain irony in Bandt and The Greens arguing for collective bargaining without the possibility of arbitration, given the debates that occurred when this first became a present possibility under Keating’s 1993 IR Reform Act.

    The difficulty, now as always, is that such outcomes are almost invariably those which the stronger party can enforce. Contrary to Dr_Tad, I think Alan Joyce may well be displaying hubris if he believes that FWA will give him a better outcome than he could achieve through negotiation. Capitalists aren’t always as devilishly clever and rational as Marxists think they are…

  103. Ginja

    Steve at the Pub: except for the small matter of no planes being in the air.

  104. Darryl Rosin

    Can I ‘like’ mark’s second paragraph @101? :^)

    I’m confused about the first paragraph though, as there were no Australian Greens in the Senate until Bob Brown in 1996. Margetts and Chamarette (and Vallentine) were never Australian Greens senators. You might think that a distinction without difference, but I assure you, it ain’t.


  105. Rob

    @ 91 ross greenwood must’ve got some fresh weed in.

    Qantas – or any airline for that matter – isn’t a working capital-based business, so why he cites its cash position as some sort of proxy of ‘strength’ completely misunderstands and airline’s business model.

    we should avoid quoting cats like him.

  106. Mark Bahnisch

    @103 – Darryl, yes, I’m aware of that. I just meant that many on the left were aware that there was a bit of a deal with the devil in business ideologues and left unionists advocating ‘free collective bargaining’ at the time. Of course, the sorts of unionists who were advocating it back then were from unions in transport, distribution and manufacturing which (back then) had a putatively very strong bargaining position.

    It’s a bit of a segue, but we need to remember that engineers and baggage handlers have far less industrial muscle than pilots, and that the claims made on Qantas differ.

  107. Robert Merkel

    Daryl, no, I don’t know a lot about IR, and frankly I am surprised by some of the discussion between Dr. Tad and Mark on the history of this.

    Salient Green, there is a difference between being cashed-up and being in a good competitive position.

    At some point, unless that cash is invested in activities that make a better rate of return than sticking the money in a term deposit, shareholders will demand the cash be returned to them (as dividends or share buybacks) so they can do just that.

  108. Mark Bahnisch

    Anyway, that may not concern Bandt. He might be one of those “beyond left and right” Greens, for all I know! 😛

  109. Ginja

    One more point: our capitalist overlords always inflate the cost of industrial action (by workers). Even in an industry like aviation, absenteeism, staff turnover and sickness are probably a great deal more costly than any industrial action.

  110. Mark Bahnisch

    @106 – Rob, forgive me if I am wrong but you still seem to me to be treating labour as if it were only a cost.

    And shareholders can go to buggery if the law of the land requires the company to pay fair wages.

  111. Eric Sykes

    The longer the planes stay on the ground the harder it is for them to fly again. While they are grounded they are not subject to their regular maintenance regime.

    So it will not be Joyce, or the Unions involved or Government who will decide if they fly again, it will be the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (thank goodness for arms length safety regulators).

    Joyce and the Qantas Board knows this of course. So more and more this appears to me to be an attempt to close the company down altogether or at least break it up along the lines Joyce has been parroting the last few months and offshore the whole thing.

    The ABC 7.30 tonight was a desperate attempt to blame the Unions, with footage of violent picket lines completely unrelated to this dispute. This seems not to working, the vibe seems to me to be anti-management overall. But this also may, in the end, play to the central management strategy of closing the whole company down…”Sorry Australia, yes, we buggered up, but we’ve all got our payouts sorted and our portfolios sold and we’re off to Hong Kong, bye…”.

  112. Dr_Tad

    Mr Denmore @96:

    That’s exactly the point. This is how capitalism works — especially when competition ratchets up.

    Mark B @ various:

    I stand by what I said about the Left and arbitration. The syndicalist talk of “bosses’ courts” was mostly associated with pragmatic adaptation and lack of clarity about the state’s non-independence. But I should leave that alone before we come to blows. 😛

    On 1993 versus now, the difference is not just the balance of forces but that rights to take action are much more constrained by the FWA. Here arbitration is being used by Qantas bosses to shut down a group of workers who have only taken limited and not very powerful action. Adam is right to take the stand he does (except I disagree with his framing of it as “the government should be neutral” — politically he would be better off condemning Gillard for not standing by the workers against a bully boss).

    On Joyce & hubris: I think he knows he can’t win the PR debate. He is talking mainly to those already on side if you listen to him. This is about force deciding between equal rights, and roping the government in to weaken the unions’ side through the FWA is the trick he thinks can win it. Of course there are many things that can blow up in his face, but his most obvious initial gambit — forcing Gillard to do what he wants — has worked. The question is will the unions challenge arbitration if it’s forced on them? Because any serious worker resistance in the coming period will have to try to break the FWA to be successful

    PS Qantas lawyers have continued to baldly state that the airline may not fly if only “suspension” occurs.

  113. Robert Merkel

    No, I do not think that, Mark.

    But “fair wages” is a very amphormous concept, to say the least. Is it fair that child protection workers get paid bugger-all, for instance?

    I don’t know exactly what my definition of fair is – and, certainly, in aggregate wage distribution should be more egalitarian than it is now. However, I find it hard to subscribe to the notion that historical wage relativities won through industrial bargaining power and willingness to use it can or should necessarily be preserved forever.

    Indeed, some most definitely shouldn’t – CEOs being a pertinent example.

    And shareholders can indeed go to buggery, but if a company doesn’t make a sufficient return on capital it will cease to exist in its present form.

  114. Mark Bahnisch

    Rob, I’m unclear as to the relevance of relativities here. In any case, the restructuring of awards, and indeed, the whole thrust of the changes to the system since 1993, have been designed to break down relativities. Sometimes this can work against unions, and sometimes for (as in the case of the equal pay cases). But they’re a much less important of Australian wage fixation, to cut a long story short, than once they were.

    In any event, it seems to me that central to this dispute is not wages but job security and preventing offshoring and outsourcing.

  115. Mark Bahnisch

    Qantas lawyers have continued to baldly state that the airline may not fly if only “suspension” occurs.

    Ambit, ambit claims, Dr_Tad. I’m sure they’re looking up the penalties Joyce might personally face if he acts in breach of FWA orders at the same time.

    Because any serious worker resistance in the coming period will have to try to break the FWA to be successful

    There may be different definitions of “successful” among workers and unions and others in solidarity with them at work, I suspect!

  116. Mark Bahnisch

    Ps – the sorts of industrial action that can lawfully be taken within bargaining periods have been restricted since the Reith/Kernot legislation in 1997. It’s not as though the Fair Work Act has imposed some new set of constraints on unions.

  117. John D

    One of the key reasons for the reduction of strikes in Aus is that unions and strikers have become exposed to the threat of damage claims in the real courts. This change was a real break from the good old days when many strikes were, strictly speaking, illegal but there were no consequences apart from loss of pay for the days on strikes.

    Which begs the question: “To what extent are companies exposed to damage claims as a consequence of lockouts?”

    If claims that a lockout was being planned are true someone who would have made alternative arrangements (or simply cancelled the trip) has good grounds for being very pissed off and being part of a class action against QANTAS and its board.

  118. pre-dawn leftist

    I saw the 7.30 show tonight as well. Chris Uhlmann was doing his best to spin this negatively for Julia Gillard. Personally, I think that Laura Tingle is on the money wityh this one. The situation plays to Gillards strengths (skilled negotiator, peacemaker) and if she handles it properly (which she seems likely to do) she will imnprove her standing in the electorate.

    I was interested in Greg Bambers comments on Inside Business. He mentioned Southwest airlines in the US. Its been going 40 years, has always returned a profit and never had any industrial trouble. Qantas should emulate this example but it will take significant cultural change because starts with Management adopting a teamwork approach, not gouging their customers or treating them like cattle and not treating their staff like the enemy.

  119. Mark Bahnisch

    The single biggest flaw in Band’s post just jumped out at me!

    Ever since John Howard’s WorkChoices, the spirit of which still lives in the current legislation, many unions have sought to bargain for an outcome and avoid arbitration. Why? Because the outcomes you’re likely to get in an arbitration are widely thought to be less than what you might get in bargaining.

    This actually makes, literally, no sense, because there is no access to arbitration except in exceptional circumstances (as in the present instance). That has been the case, not “ever since John Howard’s WorkChoices”, but since the 1996 Workplace Relations Act. The thrust of de-emphasising arbitration for disputes (if not for awards) in fact dates back to Keating’s Industrial Relations Reform Act in 1993.

    So, since there has been no easy access to arbitration for unions since 1996, it’s simply a nonsense to say that unions have eschewed arbitration.

    I’m afraid Bandt doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His opinion, I’m afraid, rests on untruth not on fact.

  120. Darryl Rosin

    “Ambit, ambit claims, Dr_Tad. I’m sure they’re looking up the penalties Joyce might personally face if he acts in breach of FWA orders at the same time.”

    Could be. How much protection does CASA give Q, if Q wanted to go “black letter” on some advisory memo?

    But this is the thing, I think. Q give the appearance of wanting to test FWA. How far are they prepared to go? There are *so* many moving parts to this dispute, including the inquiry into the “Sale of QANTAS Act”, it’s very hard to imagine what QANTAS wants. They’ve got multiple “strategic win” scenarios. Is it a straight ultimatum to the Government? “Give us what we want on offshoring and independence of Jetstar et al and you can have whatever precedent you want in FWA. (Can’t do fairer than that, final offer, come on mate…)”


  121. Mark Bahnisch

    Well, they’ve also got multiple strategic EPIC FAIL scenarios, Darryl!

  122. Darryl Rosin

    It’s always useful to know the boundaries of what you (and your rivals) can get away with.

  123. Mark Bahnisch

    Like I said before, one should never accept capitalists’ self-valuation of being devilishly clever.

  124. tssk

    This looks like union busting to me. What’s the bet the end game is the Reagan solution?

    Sack em all and never let them work again. IN 20 years we could be where the US is.

  125. Mark Bahnisch

    True, true, Darryl, but as I implied in the post (and I mentioned the inquiry into and the amendments proposed to the Qantas Act), there are a lot of potential unintended consequences. I think, here, there’s a parallel between the management obsession about ‘control’ (note some Qantas spokesthing complaining pilots like too much of it) and this gambit. But, as you rightly say, it’s a fast moving, chaotic and complex scenario, and quite prone to escaping Joyce’s control.

    I doubt the CASA black letter scenario is anything but bluff, huff and bluster. I could be wrong but I would also be very surprised indeed if Albanese and Gillard stood for it. No doubt there’s some musty legislation somewhere which would get the planes back in the sky.

    If they allowed Joyce to do that, after having taken ownership of the issue, then they may as well resign and give Abbott his election.

  126. Veltyen

    Someone made a comment about qantas pilots being in the top %1.

    According to the ABS for 2009-2010 the top 3% cutoff is $5000/week per household gross.

    That translates as a single income of $250K.

    quoting 9msn
    “A top 747 pilot can currently earn up to $500,000 a year, while an average pilot still brings home $350,000, according to a News Limited report. ”

    Pilots are definitely in the top 3% by income then. But in the 1%?

  127. Darryl Rosin

    [email protected]

    EPIC FAILITUDE lurks around every corner and at the end of each corridor. I was trying to think about what Q regards as a “better environment” for their business.

    Q want something and are prepared to spend a *lot* of money (now and in the future) to get it. The better we understand what Q want, the easier the negotiation is. It’s better to reach agreement without arbitration. Arbitration produces ill-will.


  128. Kim

    There’s not ill will now, Darryl?

    What Qantas really wants is to morph into an Asian low cost carrier paying its staff bugger all and to escape the Australian regulatory and legislative frameworksto the greatest degree possible.

    See the Bernard Keane post Mark linked to.

  129. Darryl Rosin

    Kim, there is already heaps of ill will. It would be better if there were less, not more.

    That might very well be what Q want. And if that’s their actual goal, “to enter into EB negotiations as QANTAS and emerge as an Asian low cost carrier” then they are even dumber than I imagined. They are QANTAS. They will never escape ‘Australian regulatory and legislative frameworks’.


  130. akn

    An excellent opportunity for Gillard to open up domestic air travel to competition from whichever airlines want to run flights. Play a bit of run and gun with union bashing managers. It might also remind Labor parliamentarians why they’re there. Maybe. Listening to Albo tonight didn’t inspire anything but colonic discomfort.

  131. Darryl Rosin

    FWA decision at 1am (AEDT I assume)

  132. Kim

    They don’t want to be Qantas Darryl! The whole point of the Senate hearings is to examine their desire to run down Qantas and establish low cost subsidiaries in Asia and here (cf Jetstar) … again I would urge following the links in Mark’s OP.

    This is no ordinary industrial negotiation.

  133. Chris

    Do FWA judges get overtime for working till 1am? 🙂

  134. Kim

    Past 1am!

  135. Darryl Rosin

    This is a test of FWA, I agree. This could redefine what ‘ordinary industrial negotiations’ look like.

    What the board wants the company to be is not the same as what the company is.

    I’ve read the links in Mark’s post. Don’t think much of Keane’s.


  136. Kim

    In the meantime we can listen to the former Qantas chief economist on ABC News 24 call for the international operations to be nationalized.

  137. Kim

    Darryl, it’s the sort of issue that probably is incapable of resolution by industrial law alone.

  138. Darryl Rosin

    “it’s the sort of issue that probably is incapable of resolution by industrial law alone.”

    Let alone an EB argument.


  139. Kim

    Well, yes. The gubberment should nationalise them!

  140. Kim

    Update [by Kim]: The full bench of Fair Work Australia has ruled that all protected industrial action be terminated, and that the parties have 21 days to negotiate in conciliation (with the potential for an extension of a further 21 days) before facing FWA arbitration if the dispute is not resolved.

  141. sg

    Is it just me or is the peter hartcher piece at the Herald singularly mealy-mouthed and pathetic?

  142. Kim

    Dunno if it’s just you, link?

  143. Kim
  144. Chris

    ACTU secretary is spinning FWA decision as a loss for Qantas on ABC24. Kind of odd given this is exactly what Qantas wanted.

  145. Brian
  146. BilB

    While the airline has paused for thought this is an opportunity for us to do the same and consider how air travel can be performed in the future. Here is a two part set of articles from the Comparative Air Flight Efficiency Foundation web blog site (CAFE Foundation). The second item is particularly interesting.


  147. Joe

    Joyce should be sacked over this. How can a CEO cause this amount of damage to a companies international reputation and cause the national government to intervene and essentially overrule him and not allow the planes to stay on the ground. What sought of f*in circus does he think he’s running?

  148. tigtog

    @Velteyn, re whether or not pilots are in the top 1% by income – generally the Gini co-efficient (on which the bulk of the 99% rhetoric is based) measures wealth rather than income. Not the same thing at all, and I’d be immensely surprised if pilots were generally in the top 1% in terms of wealth. The very wealthy often have remarkably low taxable-incomes by the time their accountants have taken all the deduction mechanisms available to them into account.

  149. tssk

    This has worked a treat. I’ve seen on Facebook a lot of my usually clear thinking friends blaming this squarely on greedy unions, whining workers and the ALP.

    I think this is going to be historic the same way the Air Traffic Controllers strike in the US was historic. This has the potential in one stroke to kill both the union movement in Australia and the left wing of the ALP.

    The good news means that pilots will be more competetive in the market which can only be good for shareholders. Sure, your pilot might be tired from having to hold down a second job but isn’t that the goal of increasing worker productivity? The old model of eight hours work, eight hours rest and eight hours sleep is old fashioned anyway. Most Americans work 16 hours a day and let’s face it, you can get by on five or six hours of sleep if need be.

    Tony Abbott was just on Sunrise and he looked ecastic. I can see him dreaming of taking the top spot and re-introducing Workchoices as a priority for the ‘good of the nation.’

    Julia is on now. Let’s see how she goes.

  150. akn

    Joe, Joyce thinks he’s the head of a mining company.

  151. tssk

    Bah. Julia responded by using facts not sound bites. A loss for her then.

    I cannot see a way out of this other than the employees having to suck down whatever management wants for the public good.

    And what a bitter pill that is to swallow when the big boss just gave himself a multimillion dollar pay rise.

  152. tssk

    To be fair akn after the mining companies were able to roll Rudd I can see why other CEO’s might use the line “let us have whatever we want or you get replaced as PM.”

    Precedent has been set now.

  153. akn

    Exactly, tssk. Corporate capture the way Genghis Khan would have done it.

    Attributed to him:

    A man’s greatest work is to break his enemies, to drive them before him, to take from them all the things that have been theirs, to hear the weeping of those who cherished them.

    But if you study the Khan he had more of a sense of distributive and social justice than the global 1%.

  154. Sam

    Alan Joyce began his career at Aer Lingus. That is where he learned to be so cunning.

  155. Fran Barlow

    Alan Joyce began his career at Aer Lingus. That is where he learned to be so cunning.

    Subtle allusion. Well done, Sam.

    Interestingly, putting aside the ethical issues, Gillard performed pretty well this morning refuting the case put by Fran kelly on behalf of QANTAS and business, and again on AM by Steven Jejets at #theirABC.

  156. Nickws

    Mark @ 18:
    This actually makes, literally, no sense, because there is no access to arbitration except in exceptional circumstances (as in the present instance). That has been the case, not “ever since John Howard’s WorkChoices”, but since the 1996 Workplace Relations Act. The thrust of de-emphasising arbitration for disputes (if not for awards) in fact dates back to Keating’s Industrial Relations Reform Act in 1993.

    So, since there has been no easy access to arbitration for unions since 1996, it’s simply a nonsense to say that unions have eschewed arbitration.

    I’m afraid Bandt doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His opinion, I’m afraid, rests on untruth not on fact.

    Really? Mark, you think IR lawyer Adam Bandt (experienced union counsel from the time Ansett’s collapse) is wrong on all this because he isn’t working from the same legislative-programmatic understanding of IR that you as a non-legal academic have?

    Of course it’s still only the morning after, but I’ve yet to see his core analysis debunked: “Qantas’ decision to ground the fleet forced the government’s hand. The government now effectively had four choices. It could seek to terminate Qantas’ action only. It could seek to terminate all parties’ action, even the pilots who’d done nothing more than hangs their clothes and make announcements. Or they could seek to suspend industrial action and force the parties back to the bargaining table. Or, lastly, they could have just demanded FWA roll up its hands and conduct serious negotiations.

    The government took the second option when they should have taken the third (or the fourth, though the government clearly thought things had gone too far for that). Why? By terminating industrial action, the parties are put on a conveyor belt to arbitration.”

    Mark: He might be one of those “beyond left and right” Greens, for all I know!

    I don’t expect Adam Bandt to stand up for broad labour movement tribal attitudes even if he is a labour lawyer, and I’m glad he isn’t confusing the issue by focussing on some abstract notion of union power that only theorists can understand. He’s merely defending the Qantas workforce in the face of whatever Gillard Grand Bargain the factional bosses are working on to save face.

    I know that as a casual observer I’m not about to show any deference to this Grand Bargain process, not until it’s obvious that it’s the only possible outcome. I’m pretty horrified to see Bernard Keane automatically link all this to the standard “what’s in it for the government polling?” speculation.

    This is more than a game of defending factional intellectual standpoints, or seeking ownership of the writing of history in the making.

  157. CMMC

    Joyce is channeling Humphrey Bogart from “The Caine Mutiny”


  158. Incurious & Unread

    Qantas has had two sources of sustainable competitive advantage in Australia:

    1. residual customer loyalty from a misplaced sense of patriotism; and
    2. government goodwill and regulatory support.

    These are both now dead in the water.

    Qantas has no apparent competitive advantage in Asia.

  159. Kim

    @155 – I don’t think it has anything to do with being an academic, Nickws. Bandt’s premise *is* wrong.

  160. Kim
  161. Chris

    I&U – brand loyalty was pretty much dead already. As has been reported only 18% of Australians fly Qantas internationally now compared to about 40% a decade or two ago. And like personal travel a lot of businesses now just book travel the cheapest airfare.

    With the ongoing industrial action by the unions I know of a few people who did have Qantas brand loyalty transfer to Virgin (they have been giving frequent flyers equivalent status in their program).

    I’m curious to what sort of benefit you think the government goodwill was getting them? The government has been pushing an open skies policy and expecting Qantas to adjust. So they are.

    Kim @ 159 – talk about trying to rewrite history! If they are so happy with the result why didn’t they support termination in the first place rather than make FWA hold hearings Saturday and Sunday night. Could have been fixed yesterday morning if they didn’t fight the termination of the industrial action.

  162. Mark Bahnisch

    I don’t know what you’re getting at here, Nickws. Adam Bandt (who has a PhD in politics) doesn’t seem to me to be putting some pragmatic as opposed to theoretical argument. He’s just factually wrong in his premise that unions have eschewed arbitration “ever since WorkChoices” because arbitration putatively leads to less favourable outcomes. Unions could not have eschewed arbitration since WorkChoices because access to compulsory arbitration has been highly restricted since 1996 and the Reith/Kernot Workplace Relations Act. Thus it has not been a matter of choice for unions, since that legal avenue has only been available in exceptional circumstances.

    More broadly, I think Bandt wants to join the chorus claiming that the Fair Work Act is somehow anti-union. Cf Dr_Tad: http://left-flank.blogspot.com/2011/10/qantas-lock-out-1-declares-all-out-war.html

    I also don’t know where Dr_Tad’s view that FWA arbitration would not encompass job security claims is coming from; arbitration can extend to all employment matters which are in dispute under the Fair Work Act (a change from WorkChoices and the Workplace Relations Act).

    Finally, I sometimes wonder who the far left think they’re in solidarity with, given the ACTU, as Kim notes, has welcomed the FWA ruling.

  163. Mark Bahnisch

    @160 – Chris, unions (and employers) tend to advocate what they think the optimum position for them is before a decision, and accept what they can live with.

  164. Occam's Blunt Razor

    QANTAS Management Bad!!

    Unions Good!!

    So, exactly what have the unions done to recognise the fact that the business that employs them is facing both increased price and cost competition . . . despite the motherhood statements about protecting Australian jobs do they even care?

  165. Incurious & Unread

    Chris @160,

    I don’t follow this closely, but hasn’t Singapore Airlines been trying for years to get permission to fly out of Australia across the Pacific and also to fly Australian domestic legs?

    And if Qantas does not enjoy patriotic support, why do they spend so much money on rubbish like “Qantas Wallabies” and “I still call Australia home”?

    I agree, though, that both these elements have been eroding over time and forcing Qantas to change its business model.

  166. Lefty E

    Well said, I&U, and add in their historic safety record – which Joyce has essentially trashed through cutbacks and retention of an ageing international 747 fleet

    If he’d instead played those three cards to their advantage – QANTAS would be even more profitable than today.

    Honestly, this guff about cost competition just doesnt stack up: its like the “operational reasons” defence to unfair dismissal under Howard’s Workchoices: its just an empty assertion corporatons routinely toss out whether or not its true.

  167. adrian

    Maybe people need to ask themselves a few questions before jumping to erroneous conclusions:

    – Why does Qantas no longer enjoy ‘patriotic support’ of Australians, if this is the case?
    – If Qantas no longer enjoys ‘patriotic support’, why doesn’t it ditch its whole marketing strategy and fire its advertising agency?
    – Why can other airlines remain viable while offering a quality service?
    – If people claim that it’s because of lower wage costs and little else, what is the difference between these airlines wages bill and that of Qantas?
    – If the government doesn’t provide Qantas with market advantages why doesn’t it allow overseas airlines to operate on domestic routes?
    – What benefits did the privatisation of Qantas deliver?
    – Is a nation’s airline a company just like any other?
    – How can a political party that has no industrial relations policy of its own be taken seriously when criticising the government’s?

  168. Lefty E

    I might add, the mounting evidence that QANTAS is hiding profits in Jetstar further undermines the whole case.

    Just because a co. adopts a particular accumulation strategy hardly makes it “necessary”, folks.

  169. Occam's Blunt Razor


    – Why does Qantas no longer enjoy ‘patriotic support’ of Australians, if this is the case?

    There is still some ‘patriotic support’ – but when it comes tiem to put cold hard cash on the line price matters.

    – If Qantas no longer enjoys ‘patriotic support’, why doesn’t it ditch its whole marketing strategy and fire its advertising agency?

    The very well paid marketers obviously can pitch to the QANTAS Board that their is value there.

    – Why can other airlines remain viable while offering a quality service?

    They are not faced with the same wage rates and restrictive work practices that QANTAS is.

    – If people claim that it’s because of lower wage costs and little else, what is the difference between these airlines wages bill and that of Qantas?

    It is not just the wage costs – it is also specific to aircraft costs – QANTAS fleet upgrades have been delayed fo a range of reasons. The new aircraft are much cheaper to operate and maintain once they are in service.

    – If the government doesn’t provide Qantas with market advantages why doesn’t it allow overseas airlines to operate on domestic routes?

    The domestic route protection applies for all domestic carriers – not just QANTAS. Protection of domestic markets is internationally commonplace.

    – What benefits did the privatisation of Qantas deliver?

    Lots – Australian taxpayers got to pay down debt. The Government got out of a business it shouldn’t be in. We have Jetstar and much cheaper fares. And that is not close to the whole list of benefits.

    – Is a nation’s airline a company just like any other?

    Depends on your view point. Personally I think the whole shooting match should be opened up for competition and the vast majority of Australians would be better off. I’d love to fly Ethiad domestically.

    – How can a political party that has no industrial relations policy of its own be taken seriously when criticising the government’s?

    Who are you referrring to? The Democrats?

    I only fly QANTAS domestically out of Perth because Jetstar and Virgin are shite and shiter for long haul. Internationally I fly Singapore of Emirates with QANTAS behind Cathay, Malaysian and Thai.

  170. Chris

    Mark @ 162 – agreed, but I still think its trying to rewrite history. If they are reasonably happy with the decision its a sad indication of just how bad communication is between the unions and Qantas. After all if the parties could live with binding arbitration, why couldn’t they agree to do that without going through any of the industrial action?

    I & U @ 164 – Singapore airlines and Air Canada are still banned, but the Open Skies agreement in 2008 allowed Virgin to enter the market as well as an additional US airline (in addition to united airlines). So profits on that previously very profitable route have dropped for Qantas. In my opinion the United Airlines experience is far worse than the Qantas one.

    I think about the only advantage Qantas has internationally is the domestic connections. Doesn’t really matter if you live in Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane but from other cities having to check in twice is a big pain (and a non trivial risk of missing international flights unless you put really big layovers in).

    adrian @ 166 – I think its also worth asking what benefit we really get from having a national airline for international flights. Would we really lose much if we just let it disappear if it can’t attract customers?

  171. Sam

    Why do people insist on living in the 60s by spelling the name of the airline as QANTAS? Yes, originally it was an acronym, but it’s been Qantas for decades.

  172. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @ 170 – same as ANZAC – always have and always will.

  173. Ronson

    “Is a nation’s airline a company just like any other?”

    How can a non-government business be referred to as ‘a nation’s whatever’?

    To me that implies it’s owned by the people via the government as Qantas was when it was QANTAS.

  174. sg

    Actually akn, I think Conan said it better, when asked the definition of happiness:

    To crush your enemies, to drive them before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women

    Genghis was a little prolix for my tastes.

  175. Robert Merkel

    Chris, if Qantas disappears, the employees whose job security is at issue here will lose their jobs.

    Many will, presumably, be re-employed by an Australian competitor – under less favourable terms and conditions – or their jobs will be offshored one way or another.

  176. John D

    Adrian @166: I used to like flying QANTAS but it lost my patriotic support when booking QANTAS could mean that you ended travelling cattle class in BAA or someone else I would never have chosen to travel with.

  177. Dr_Tad

    Mark @161:

    It’s the specific job security issues at stake that may well be outside the FWA’s allowable matters, as a number of commentators (incl. Ben Sandilands) have pointed out.

    Your comment about the ACTU verges on delusional. The unions’ lawyers all argued against a termination because it would be prejudiced against the workers. Here they are just trying to save face because they lost in FWA. The reality of these negotiations is that they will be carried out on much more unfavourable terrain than before, with a 21-day deadline and FWA ruling of uncertain character hanging over them. Joyce got exactly what he wanted, had a weak ALP government act aggressively on his behalf in the tribunal, and bullied his way past much more reasonable calls for a suspension.

    This is the Fair Work Act in action, for all to see. And good on Adam Bandt for telling the truth about what Gillard did.

  178. Dr_Tad

    Also, Bandt’s PhD is in international jurisprudence, and he was an industrial lawyer (Slater & Gordon; Gillard’s old job) and then barrister right up to winning Melbourne. #justsaying

  179. Chris

    Robert @ 174 – sure it would really suck for those currently employed by Qantas, though if it happens slowly its not so bad – people retire/move on eventually anyway.

    Isn’t it a bit like removal of tarrifs? Or even changes like carbon taxes? People lose jobs in one area, but there are gains in others – eg cheaper flights is a benefit to the tourism industry. And other business reliant on air travel become more efficient leading to job growth.

  180. Helen

    The very first comment on the Hun article on this today: “Gillard could have stopped this a week ago but refused because it was the militant unions pulling the strings. More in particular the TWU who’s president is soon to be Gillards boss. This is the fruit of a rubbish Labor union run government!”

    Un-friggin’ – believable – hang on, actually, only too believable. Nothing will shake the tabloid reader/commenter’s belief that the unions and Gillard are always at fault.

  181. Mark Bahnisch

    So you’re enjoying being able to attack the Labor government Dr_Tad?

    There is a distinction between job security clauses and influencing Qantas’ strategy which is important.

  182. Fran Barlow


    I’m not going to endorse your use of the word ‘delusional’ in relation to Mark Bahnisch, but the rest of your text is on good ground, IMO. It’s simply obvious that the ACTU would try to put a brave face on what was a serious setback. They have few other shots available to them in the locker and they do want to keep the pressure on Joyce/QANTAS given that the trashing of the brand remains controversial.

    If negotiations fail — presumably they will — and a settlement is imposed –again presumably it will favour QANTAS strongly — the unions will have little good alternative but to file a new log of claims and resume hostilities. They are probably hoping to wiggle out of that, but as the questions raised are existential, they don’t have a real choice. Either they accept that they and QANTAS are finished or they fight on.

    IMO, the push for re-nationalisation is a live option around a more general counterattack could coalesce. Occupy QANTAS anyone?

    As that ex-QANTAS economist pointed out in the Herald last week, rival state owned airlines are making life pretty tough for QANTAS and other carriers including those who brought the bulk of Australia’s inbound tourism. Airlines like Etihad are operated as extensions of the economy rather than as individual businesses with set profit targets.

  183. Mark Bahnisch

    I’ll get back to that later – am busy today.

    Thanks for the interesting info about Adam Bandt’s PhD.

  184. Chris

    Helen @ 179 – I suspect in the longer term Gillard will come out of this looking better. FWA will be seen to be “working” (where the public definition of this is stopping the industrial action). And Abbott publicly stated after Qantas was grounded that this was a test of the government. And she’s clearly passed. This will give Gillard the ability to further push that Abbott is an extremist when it comes to IR policy.

  185. Dr_Tad

    I now regret using the word “delusional”, apologise and withdraw (especially as I’m a psychiatrist and it might be taken as diagnostic rather than rhetorical).

    However, the attempt to spin this as something other than a significant win for Joyce (a battle and not the war, mind you) looks pretty strained. It gives me no joy that Gillard & her Act were central parts of it, either, but I’m hardly going to pretend they haven’t been.

  186. adrian

    It’s not just tabloid readers/commentators that are reacting in this way Helen – Peter Hartcher’s piece in the SMH today is a particularly nasty example of the blame the government and in particular the PM for everything epidemic currently afflicting Australia.

  187. Occam's Blunt Razor

    The Unions have more front than Dolly Parton putting around the line that it is QANTAS Management who has trashed the brand when it is the Unions’ industrial action that has caused the collapse in forward bookings, rising losses and loss of public confidence in the reliability of making a booking on QANTAS.

    Yes, the weekend action by Management has had a once off negative impact but it has achieved a ceasation to future industrial action – now, once the back log is cleared, the public knows that they won’t be stuffed around by industrial action when they book a QANTAS flight.

    Why did the Unions argue against the FWA outcome that has occurred? – because they wanted to keep disrupting the public and cause financial losses to the company. Mr Joyce has achieved the outcome that was needed.

    The Government could have avoided the cessation of flights on Saturday but chose not to – once again they dropped the ball – Live Cattle Export all over again.

  188. sg

    OBR, if the government had acted unilaterally on Saturday, how much time do you think would actually have been saved and how many passengers less would have been affected? It was Qantas that grounded the planes, and unless you think Gillard has a magic wand that can make all those planes in Heathrow just suddenly start flying again, even her most direct intervention would have taken time.

    As it is, she managed to get FWA to rule on the dispute within 2 days of it starting, and flights are running after 2.5 days. If you have an issue with massive disruption being caused by the grounding, take it up with Qantas management – it was their idea, and they obviously planned it for a while.

  189. John D

    I experienced a lockout at BHP Iron Ore during 1998. The cause was a combination of difficult unions and a new CEO who came from Namibia and had this touching idea he would be able to operate as he had under the old apartheid regime. (To be fair, he was considered progressive by South African standards.)
    The lockout was an interesting, but not very pleasant experience. Staff cars damaged driving to work and parked at home (including the cutting of brake lines in one case), petrol poured into a home pool and lit etc.
    The lockout ended after the CEO was sacked and the unions agreed to go back to work.
    The lockout was a wake-up call for both sides. The company realized that the old approach wasn’t working and replaced the CEO and mine manager with people from outside the iron ore industry to provide a new start.
    Equally, many union members were disturbed by the violence of the militants during the lockout. There was no sudden replacement of militant leaders but over a short time there was a change to more moderate leadership and the extreme militants left of their own accord.
    What has happened with Qantas should have been a wake-up call to both management and union members. Both sides seem to be have been working to trash the Qantas business.
    Perhaps what is needed is something like what happened at BHP Iron Ore. Joyce, Clifford and the union leadership should be replaced by people who can work together for a better future?

  190. Dr_Tad

    Here’s Alan Kohler at Business Spectator this morning, and I think he’s pretty much got it right:

    An ironic Qantas victory

    It’s pretty ironic that Leigh Clifford, one of the driving forces behind the introduction of individual contracts in Australia, has become the first to trigger the return of compulsory arbitration. But I guess you do what you have to do, within the law at the time.

    Qantas, whose chairman is Leigh Clifford, insists that the grounding and lockout announced on Saturday night was not part of a carefully planned strategy to end the EBA dispute with the engineers, pilots and baggage handlers and their unions through the compulsory arbitration provisions of the Fair Work Act.

    Right. It came to them as a vision on Saturday morning. Actually, the weekend action has probably been coming for three years, ever since the last enterprise bargaining agreements were battled out with the pilots, engineers and baggage handlers in 2008.

    In 2009, the then two-year-old Labor government passed the Fair Work Act and established Fair Work Australia as the successor to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, including the functions of the Workplace Authority and the Australian Fair Pay Commission.

    But in empowering the unions again, the ALP also empowered the old AIRC again. It was given another name, but Howard government appointees were left in charge as a sop to the employers – Geoff Giudice as president, Graeme Watson as vice president and Jonathan Hamberger and Peter Richards as deputy presidents.

    The new law meant Clifford and Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce could not bypass the unions and deal directly with the workers, as Clifford and others did in the WA iron ore mines and the New South Wales collieries. To bypass the unions they had to go to Giudice J.

    Division 6 of the Act gives FWA the power to overrule the unions’ right to strike by suspending or terminating protected industrial action. Suspension doesn’t end the dispute, but termination does.

    Division 3 says FWA must (not can, but must) make a “workplace determination” if the parties haven’t come to an agreement 21 days after a termination.

    Clifford and Joyce have probably known for two years that this process would have to be triggered, the question was how.

    You don’t need to be a lawyer to know that it’s hard to get a termination declaration if Justice Giudice and his colleagues had to take evidence all day yesterday and work well into the night considering their decision, even though Qantas planes were sitting on the ground all over the world causing massive disruption to tens of thousands of people.

    The unions were arguing for a 120-day suspension, which would have kept the dispute alive and, in effect, kept Giudice J and his colleagues out of it.

    Saturday’s grounding ensured that the political pressure was such that the Labor government was forced to argue against the unions and with Qantas for termination, not suspension.

    Would it have gone the other way if the fleet had not been grounded? We’ll never know, but even with the fleet grounded it seems to have been a close run thing in the Exhibition Street hearing rooms of FWA yesterday.

    So at a guess I would say that Leigh Clifford suspected all along there would have to be a lockout to ensure that the government did not back the unions and that compulsory arbitration took place.

    Unlike Rio Tinto and the stevedore, Patricks, Qantas is a consumer brand so a shutdown and lockout is a vastly more damaging thing to do.

    It’s a measure of Clifford’s and Joyce’s determination to break the unions’ hold over the workforce that they took Saturday’s drastic action to make sure Fair Work Australia ended the 2011 EBA negotiations with a compulsory determination.

    Peter Reith, the Howard government’s architect of Work Choices and of the 1998 Waterfront dispute, tweeted this morning: “Termination of union and employer industrial action obviously positive but return to compulsory arbitration not good for Aussie economy.”

    Maybe, but let’s see what comes out of it.


  191. Marisan

    Can anyone on LP tell me why workers should accept a drop to third world wages when the cost of living in Australia is first world and RISING.

    It’s a fight for SURVIVAL!

  192. jusme

    joycie quoted H&S reasons for grounding the fleet. “pilots would be distracted” etc.

    is the distraction gone? i’d say their future is more uncertain than ever. i can’t see how joyce can put planes back in the air safely, using his own reasons. ever.

  193. tssk

    Marison. The living costs of employees are not any of management’s business nor their responsibility.

    The end game is that slavery is so old school. You have to shell out for a slave’s food, clothes and healthcare. In the 21st century…that’s not your concern!

  194. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @187 – the Gillard Government had window of time within which they could have made the declaration which would have ceased all industrial action. On that basis QANTAS management would have withdrawn the cease flying order. The Gillard Government had the power to avoid all the disruption but decided to let the disruption occur and then ended up arguing for the same result that they could have imposed before the disruption. So, either they dropped the ball or wanted the disruption to occur. I can’t rationally work out why they wanted the disruption to occur so have to go with the lowest common denominator – they dropped the ball – again.

    I certainly don’t agree with the view that the Government should have acted before the weekend but they should have acted on Saturday once QANTAS notified them. To allow the disruption to occur and then argue in FWA for the outcome that they could have imposed themselves without disruption just isn’t rational.

  195. Sam

    re 185:

    Peter Hartcher is very close to Rudd. It would not surprise if Rudd is feeding him the “Gillard stuffed it up” line, or indeed if Hartcher is just doing it so he can become Press Secretary to PM Rudd (2.0).

  196. Marisan

    TSSK @ 193. I hope your comment is tongue in cheek.

    If not, the viability of Qantas and the return to shareholders is not my concern either.
    With the exception of the 30,000+ employees that will lose everything if it fails.
    Talk about blackmail.

  197. Mark Bahnisch

    Thanks for that, Dr_Tad.

    I still think it’s unlikely that an outcome which would see Qantas be prevented from pursuing its current strategy is achievable through the industrial framework alone. That’s regardless of whether the bargaining period was suspended or terminated.

    Sorting out Qantas really is a political not an industrial issue.

  198. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @191 – Marisan – no one is asking Australian workers to accept THIRD WORLD WAGES. Do you have any proof that they are?

    What is being asked of the QANTAS workers is what is asked of most other Australian workers – that they become more productive and are therefore worth what they arebeing paid as part of a long-term profitable business.

    If the Unions won’t face up to the competitive pressures facing QANTAS then they are assigning all QANTAS jobs to the dustbin of history with all the Ansett jobs.

  199. Mark Bahnisch

    Actually Dr_Tad he is saying “deal with the workers” in the sense of defeat them and deunionise. That is what Kohler and the business press mean by decaying FWA.

  200. John D

    It is all about the anti “Occupy Wallstreet” mindset. It is OK for cash strapped Qantas to boost the earnings of their most expensive employees on account of what similar are being paid) yet not OK to boost the earnings of Virgin and Jetstar lower paid employees to bring them in line with Qanatas conditions.
    It is not all that long ago that the economy was being damaged by leap frog wages claims and catch-up price increases giving us stagflation. Now we have gone to the other extreme with its inhibiting effect on market size.
    Time for a think about what really would be best for us all.

  201. Helen

    Still dipping into the extraordinary comment thread in the Hun – comments like this one are common-

    Ross stranded of in NT Posted at 8:17 AM Today
    What other industries that are running okay can Gillard, Greens & Independents stuff. Everything they run they cook.

    What, the Greens and PM run Qantas now? And these people vote. Beam me up.

  202. Mark Bahnisch


    Commenting from my phone.

  203. Mark Bahnisch


  204. Martin B

    Bandt is not “join[ing] a chorus”; he has been talking about the problems with the FWA ever since entering Parliament (and before):


  205. jusme

    putting aside the requests of the workers, i reckon fair work australia must rule the qantas grounding wrong. if not, then ‘being distracted’ can and should be used as a reason to have a day off:

    “g’day boss, can’t fly back from singapore today (and put all those lives at risk), i’m feeling a bit distracted. i’ll see how i’m feeling tomorrow”.

  206. BilB

    Sam @ 171,

    I think that your point is moot at this juncture as the airline is soon to more commonly called “Crontas”.

  207. Occam's Blunt Razor

    I think it is terrible the pay differential between the cleaning staff and the Senior Staff Captains – what’s being done about that???

  208. Brian62

    It certainly seems the Irish born Alan (the Assassin of Qantas)Joyce is trying to assimilate with real Australian’s with this Freehill’s inspired Roo-shooting exercise, assisted by the spotlighting capacity of the one candlepower antics of the Honorable Peter(Shiny Pants) Reith,a dog’s breakfast indeed from Joyce, quite the Marksman of Corporate greed X by 2million per annum.

  209. Occam's Blunt Razor

    FWA works all hours on the weekend to sort out QANTAS and yet 3 years on we are still waiting for them to do something, anything, about the HSU?


  210. Mark Bahnisch

    Martin – there is a difference between advocating a broader role for the law in defeating moves to job insecurity and Bandt’s specific view of strategy in this instance.

    I would support the former but disagree with the latter.

    I will explain why later.

    He is singing from a song sheet which encourages what I think is an incorrect pile on directed at Gillard. Indirectly it segues into Dr_ Tad’s unrealistic syndicalism though I guess that is not Bandt’s fault 😛

  211. sg

    OBR, this is from the Fair Work Act 2009:

    431 Ministerial declaration terminating industrial action

    (1) The Minister may make a declaration, in writing, terminating protected industrial action for a proposed enterprise agreement if the Minister is satisfied that:

    (a) the industrial action is being engaged in, or is threatened, impending or probable; and

    (b) the industrial action is threatening, or would threaten:

    (i) to endanger the life, the personal safety or health, or the welfare, of the population or a part of it; or

    (ii) to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it.

    (2) The declaration comes into operation on the day that it is made.

    (3) A declaration under subsection (1) is not a legislative instrument.

    This means that the govt would have to organize the minister to give a declaration in writing to the people involved (i.e. Joyce). But then:

    432 Informing people of declaration

    (1) This section applies if the Minister makes a declaration under subsection 431(1).

    (2) The declaration must be published in the Gazette.

    (3) The Minister must inform FWA of the making of the declaration.

    Note points 2 and 3. The Minister (not Gillard) would then have to inform the FWA and Gazette the results.

    Are you absolutely sure that this would have shaved a significant amount of time off of the response, especially given that the grounding occurred at 5pm?

  212. Mark Bahnisch

    @182 –

    If negotiations fail — presumably they will — and a settlement is imposed –again presumably it will favour QANTAS strongly — the unions will have little good alternative but to file a new log of claims and resume hostilities.

    Well, no, they couldn’t do that legally, Fran. Termination of a bargaining period implies termination of the process which leads to a new enterprise agreement. There would be no protection for any industrial action after a new agreement (there never is).

  213. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @211 – informing in writing does not mean using snail mail – email and fax are legal ways of informing in writing.

    The requirment to Gazette a decision does not mean that you have to wait for Gazettal before acting.

    Given the alacricity that FWA was able to get the Bench assembled they obviously have very effective out of hours procedures in place (frankly I was suprised and impressed by FWAs hours of work over the weekend).

    So, yes, the fact remains that the Governemnt could have avoided the grounding of the QANTAS fleet by making a Ministerial Declaration.

    Gillard is now arguing that it wasn’t done because it has never been done before – since when has that been a reason not to apply the law?

  214. Mark Bahnisch

    Because, as she pointed out, there are no precedents and a strong likelihood, therefore, of legal challenge to any such action.

  215. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Has FWA ever been asked since the FWA Act came into being to do what it did last night?

    No Legal challenge to that?

    Why not?

    QAN up +6% in a flat market – the Board and CEO obviously don’t know what they are doing.

  216. adrian

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to blame for OBR and his ilk to blame Gillard.

    After all, if she’s intervened earlier the same whining free marketeers would be complaining that the government had intervened in a private dispute. Damn nanny state socialist interventionist government.

    There again consistency has never been the strong suite of your average blinkered right winger.

  217. Chris

    Mark @ 214 – that bit of the legislation is a bit useless then isn’t it? The government won’t use it because of legal uncertainty because it has never been used before, and there won’t be any precedents until it actually does use it.

    btw there seem to be news reports around that the TWU is thinking of legal action anyway. This was alluded to in the tweets coming out last night of the FWA sessions – that it was all in writing initially because of concerns of legal appeals to the High Court (I think).

  218. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @216 – if you bother to read my comments you will see that I do not think the Government should have acted before the QANTAS grounding decision.

    However, that is not to say the Australian Labor Party, the party of the Unions and currently running the country, should have been trying to talk some sense into the Unions involved who appear to be in denial of the reality of a globalised airline industry. At least Martin Ferguson made the right noises but was quickly slapped down.

  219. Mark Bahnisch

    @217 – Chris, the TWU is thinking of appealing the decision but has indicated it will participate in the conciliation process regardless.

  220. Sam

    Razor, If the zeitgeist is that governments or third party arbitral tribunals should intervene in industrial disputes, so be it.

    But this will throw away the big IR idea of the last 20 years, which is that employers and employees should sort out these matters themselves.

    Of course, no doubt you and your ilk will try on the argument that it should be either be a third party or enterprise bargaining, whichever delivers the best outcome to employers. However, that dog won’t hunt.

    We could end up with Hawkie making a comeback, riding in to solve disputes, just like he did in the 70s.

    It might be time to dust off the body shirts and the flared jeans.

  221. adrian

    “The Government could have avoided the cessation of flights on Saturday but chose not to – once again they dropped the ball – Live Cattle Export all over again.”


    “@216 – if you bother to read my comments you will see that I do not think the Government should have acted before the QANTAS grounding decision.”

    When did I mention ‘before the grounding decision’? You really are a blunt old razor.

  222. Sam

    Why is it that every right winger in the country, when writing about unions, writes Unions. Check out the News Ltd blogs. Check out Razor in this blog.

    It’s as if they can be demonised just that little bit more by capitalizing the first letter.

    Or maybe it’s just poor English skills.

  223. Marisan

    OBR @ 198 @191 – Marisan – no one is asking Australian workers to accept THIRD WORLD WAGES. Do you have any proof that they are?

    I thought that was the entire thrust of Workchoices. To make the Australian worker competitive with lower paid countries.

  224. Dr_Tad

    Mark @197, I meant Kohler was factually and analytically right, but from the point of view of considered pro-capitalist opinion.

  225. Lefty E

    “So, yes, the fact remains that the Governemnt could have avoided the grounding of the QANTAS fleet by making a Ministerial Declaration.”

    Well, more importantly, that would merely encourage others dodgy employer to chuck highly damaging Joyce-like tantrums in the face of protected industrial action, which, like it or not, is a right in democracies which we like to call “freedom of association”.

    The Chinese dont have that right. Banning it is a classic act of authoritarian regimes.

    Of course, if you want governments intervening constantly in IR, then Im afraid that means you’re no longer a liberal – (though I do understand thats easy to forget when the so-called Australian “liberal” party is around.)

  226. Mark Bahnisch

    Dr_Tad, but isn’t Kohler saying that in the absence of the FWA, Qantas could have gone along its merry way in trying to totally smash the union? I’m having trouble reconciling that with your criticism of FWA?

  227. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Sam @220 – the QANTAS dispute is not the normal – but it did fall in the very specific category where the Minister could act. You would not want to see me in a body shirt and I refuse to wear flairs.

    Adrian @221 – you accused me of inconsistency @216. Please show where I have been inconsistent.

    Sam @222 – Unions in this context is a proper noun and should be capitalised.

    Marisan @223 – if you are unable to get your head around productivity then I can’t help you. You “thought” is a lot different from evidence.

  228. Dr_Tad

    Mark @226

    He’s saying that bosses adapt to different types of legislation, but can still get the job done.

  229. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @225 – there are very few disputes and employers who would fall into the category that the QANTAS one does.

    This is not about freedom of association.

    Workers are allowed to strike and employers are allowed to lock-out – all have acted within the law.

  230. Mark Bahnisch

    Well, the salient difference is that enterprise agreements are no longer restricted to a very narrow list of ‘allowable matters’ as under WorkChoices. Given, as I’ve said, there is still very little scope for compulsory arbitration under FWA (and I’ve just spent the best part of an hour checking a few industrial law textbooks!), I remain puzzled as to why you and Bandt assume that this wouldn’t be subject to arbitration, given that arbitration can determine all matters in dispute (if they are “employment matters”, as is settled industrial jurisprudence). The industrial relations system, generally, does not allow for infringements on so-called managerial prerogative, and never has. It seems to me to be an extremely hopeful proposition that derailing Qantas’ strategy would have been possible for unions with another round of industrial action, particularly since Joyce would retain the possibility of locking them out again. I am far from convinced that the unions have the stronger hand, and I doubt very much you’d get the pilots out on strike, anyway. The converse effect of a protracted bargaining period is that it’s more than possible for the separable interests of the different workers and unions to be separated.

    Btw, just so you know, I have a first class honours degree in employment relations, and used to teach industrial law 😛

  231. Mark Bahnisch

    @229 – OBR:

    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. The response industrial action of which Qantas has given notice, if taken, threatens to cause significant damage to the tourism and air transport industries and indirectly to industry generally because of the effect on consumers of air passenger and cargo services.

    Joyce had better brace himself for class actions from passengers, and businesses alleging consequential losses.

  232. Mark Bahnisch

    The quote is from the Full Bench’s decision:


  233. sg

    OBR, the point I’m making is that a Ministerial Declaration would not be immediate and would not be free of legal challenge. There would still have been disruption and in fact this grounding only lasted from 5pm to the following day at 1am. It’s likely that the earliest effect a ministerial decision would have had would have been to shave half a day off that time. There would still have been 85000 travellers affected at the time the grounding happened.

    It may also be that Gillard thinks it’s not in the long-term interests of the parties involved for the government to be seen to be taking sides. She’s an industrial lawyer, you’re not. It’s likely she has a better grasp of what’s involved here than you do.

  234. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @231 – what is QANTAS Managemetn supposed to do – acquiesce to Union demands which would lock it into continuing high cost/lower productivty outcomes and keep losing money on international routes hand over fist – or allow the Unions to continue with their industrial action which had caused a collapse in forward bookings and significant losses already.

    What were they meant to do? – just bend over and take it for the good of who?

  235. Mark Bahnisch

    Negotiate in good faith.

  236. Mark Bahnisch

    And stop cost-shifting so the truth of the financial position of their international operations could be known.

  237. Occam's Blunt Razor

    sg – if a Ministerial Declaration had of been made Joyce/QANTAS would have recinded the grounding decision before the 5pm deadline. All that had to happen was for the Minister to call Joyce and tell him. That is why QANTAS gave the Government that window in which to act.

    All decisions are open to legal challenges – the current FWA ruling could be challenged – doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

  238. Fran Barlow

    Mark Bahnisch said:

    Well, no, they couldn’t do that legally, Fran. Termination of a bargaining period implies termination of the process which leads to a new enterprise agreement. There would be no protection for any industrial action after a new agreement

    If that is so then this really has been a disaster for the unions. In effect, their basic rights to collective action would be extinguished.

    All that would be left for them would be to trash QANTAS non-industrially “in the court of public opinion” in an attempt to inflict as much damage as possible on QANTAS while not linking it expressly with any log of claims. Tony Abbott has shown how destructive negative campaigning against a fixed target can be. I don’t doubt that persistent FUD could hurt QANTAS’s market share and share price a lot.

    After all, if the airline is going to treat its workers like this and use the courts to bully them into submission then as far as I can see, the workers should attempt to put as high a cost on this as possible.

  239. sg

    So OBR, you’re suggesting that Joyce gave the press conference with the express purpose of giving Gillard a couple of hours’ space with which to bitch-slap him in public?

    You think that would have improved his airline’s standing internationally, and caused no consternation on the part of the various organizations that this airline has to deal with (e.g. Heathrow airport)?

    You also think that he was planning to give “the government that window in which to act” while booking up hotels and preparing an entire contingency?

  240. sg

    Check out this dummy spit in the Herald from Michael Pascoe. What an idiot.

  241. Meee

    Didn’t Gillard draft that legislation? I’d have thought if anyone was going to be sure of when to use it, it would be her.

  242. Dr_Tad

    Mark B @ various:

    Accusations of “syndicalism” don’t hold much water from someone so attracted to the potential beneficence of the capitalist state. I’ve responded in more detail over at Left Flank, including a chronology of real-life events that make your hopeful interpretation look kind of, er, bizarre.


    It is pretty disastrous. The unions need to start formulating a way to break the Fair Work Act.

  243. Chris

    OBR – completely financially separate the international operations of Qantas from the domestic ones? It will then be very clear whether its profitable or not and if really is loss making the government can decide whether or not it should subsidise or protect or simply let it go out of business.

  244. Helen

    Or maybe it’s relatively few sockpuppets cutting and pasting from prepared scripts?

  245. Helen

    Sorry, that reply was to Sam @222. My bad for not refreshing the page!

  246. adrian

    It’s a bit more complex than that – apparently Qantas is subsidising the Jetstar operation, probably both domestically and internationally.

  247. Helen

    OBR @ 198 @191 – Marisan – no one is asking Australian workers to accept THIRD WORLD WAGES. Do you have any proof that they are?

    I thought that was the entire thrust of Workchoices. To make the Australian worker competitive with lower paid countries.

    Yes. You can’t have it both ways. If your aim is to *compete* with lower-wage countries, then wages and salaries have to be comparable. Period. On the other hand, if you just *claim* you’re being more competitive in order to grab a bigger share for the “profit” and executive salary part of the take…

  248. Fran Barlow

    From the Murdochracy’s lips to God’s ear …

    IF you are going to take a baseball bat to a group of unions, you’d better not stop belting until there is none left alive. You had better finish them off once and for all because, like monsters in horror movies that just won’t die, unions rebound with renewed force and enraged retaliation. I would have thought that Work Choices had proved that. {Lockouts won’t solve Alan Joyce’s problem}

  249. akn

    This is a direct attack on unions and unionism. Gillard’s best option is to deregulate air passenger service in Australia and open it to direct competition from international carriers who may carry for domestic routes. Or other airlines wanting to move on the protected species of QANTAS.The unions are on a hiding to nothing on this one. It’s a lose/lose scenario. If Gillard opened the skies to competition, even at the expense of jobs and conditions in Australia, that at least would allow the traveling public to kick the tripes out of the one percenters who made this decision by going with cheaper fares and lower safety standards which we’ll be facing in any event as soon as QANTAS offshores its ops and hires S-E Asian pilots and so on.

  250. Mark Bahnisch

    @242 – Dr_Tad, I’m just finishing off a post.

    In the meantime, perhaps you’d like to explain to me how things would be materially different under a 90 day suspension of the bargaining period.

  251. Chris

    adrian @ 246 – it doesn’t really matter if Qantas domestic is subsidising Jetstar as long as Qantas international is financially separate. After all a subsidised Jetstar as a competitor is no different to a subsidised singapore airlines or malaysia airlines. And the Jetstar employees are already on lower wages and are required to do a wider range of work than Qantas employees.

  252. Mark Bahnisch

    @242 –

    The unions need to start formulating a way to break the Fair Work Act.

    Great, Dr_Tad, because unions representing the low paid, vulnerable and workers in largely female dominated industries have *so much bargaining power*.

  253. Sam

    This has gone viral today. Says it all, really.


  254. Mark Bahnisch

    Ok, I’ve addressed the position of Adam Bandt and The Greens (and tangentially, Dr_Tad’s) here:


    I’d like comments on that thread to be strictly responsive to the topic and the post, and I’ll be deleting ones I consider non-responsive without any warning.

  255. Dr_Tad

    Mark @250

    Easy, at the end of the 90 days they could go back to industrial action. After 21 days here they cannot. And there’s a compulsory determination at the end if the two parties don’t make an agreement, which wouldn’t have happened in a suapension.

    The other possibility was that Joyce would keep the airline grounded even in a suspension (just not call it a lockout) and then he would be playing a much riskier and more destabilising game, one where all kinds of possibilities for resistance could emerge, and where public opinion being against him would have far greater consequences.

    Mark @ 252

    Even easier. Breaking the anti-worker provisions will not create a legal vacuum on other rights any more than breaking the penal powers in 1969 did. It is your (very odd) fixation with defending a particularly right-wing piece of industrial legislation that leads you to pose the question this way.

    In fact, the general strike over O’Shea’s jailing did more than just break those parts of the law — it opened up a period of rapid gains for workers across the board, including previously weak and unorganised groups — most of which was done without any initial recourse to the state. And the penal powers were broken with the active participation of union leaders who devised a long-term campaign to address them. That’s what I’m advocating here.

    In either case there are no guarantees, but the only guarantee you’re advocating for workers here is the dead hand of the capitalist state regulating their every move because it occasionally throws them a few crumbs. Reminds me of sections of the Left in the Accord years who used all kinds of convoluted progressive-sounding arguments for subordinating an independent workers’ movement to the state.

  256. Mark Bahnisch

    What was the level of unionisation in 1969 compared to now, Dr_Tad?

    And what was happening with the economy compared to now?

  257. Sam

    Gillard’s best option is to deregulate air passenger service in Australia and open it to direct competition from international carriers who may carry for domestic routes.

    If I were Albanese, I’d be on the dog and bone toute de suite to Singapore Airlines and telling them:

    “OK, here’s the deal. You get open slather on the SYD-MEL route, in exchange for a fully unionised work force and you build an engineering maintenance facility [or whatever the fuck these things are called] and if you get any grief from Qantas or the airports about landing slots you give me a call and I’ll sic the ACCC onto them like a ton of fucking bricks”.

    If that destroys Qantas’ cosy domestic market share, tough titties.

  258. Dr_Tad

    Mark @ 256

    Well, either workers and the Left rebuild working class organisation, self-confidence and political clarity or we wait for the state to protect them. Of course in a time of crisis states are more than happy to help the poor workers. Look at Greece. Oops, I mean Spain. Oh, sorry, the UK. No, I mean the USA. Oh…

    At least these places show us that rebuilding such organisation and confidence is inseparable from the struggle against governments (of the centre-Right or centre-Left) intent on imposing austerity and elite agendas.

  259. Brendon

    Sir Rod Eddington recommended the Irishman to Qantas.

    That’s all I need kmow. He was the guy who gave Murdoch a report on Ansett that suggested they sell all the stock and then lease it back, anything that isn’t nailed down (and that is). Nice juicy influx of money. Then the next year (or was it the following), Murdoch sells it off to Air New Zealand. A year or so after that and I was ringing up a New Zealand office looking for 35K that I never got.

    I made it a rule after that not to do business with anything Eddington was associated with. You never know.

  260. Mark Bahnisch

    @258 – I’m confused, Dr_Tad, that would occur during the 90 day or 120 day suspension of the bargaining period? (Or afterwards, when protected industrial action would still be allowed?) I don’t think you can summon up a class conscious and militant union movement to order.

  261. Steve at the Pub

    “OK, here’s the deal. You get open slather on the SYD-MEL route, in exchange for a fully unionised work force and you build an engineering maintenance facility……

    Anyone else see the obstacle? Anyone else remember the postscript to the last SIA strike?

  262. Lefty E

    The airline unions were asking for between 2.5% and 5%. I.e. somewhere between a real wage *cut* and a 1.5% real wage rise.

    So unreasonable!!!

    Joyce is a plonker.


  263. Martin B

    [email protected]:

    Be that as it may, your comments @162 go beyond a question of the merits or flaws of Bandt’s and the Greens’ positions. It is very difficult to avoid the inference from your comments that either or both
    a) this is a new interest for Bandt; and
    b) he is not sincere and is motivated purely by political concerns.

    Neither characterisation is true or fair and if you ask me it somewhat detracts from your core arguments to take these kinds of pot-shots.

  264. Brian

    A few random comments.

    I listened to Question Time today. Gillard was having fun. She obviously knows a bit about industrial relations and it’s very clear that Abbott doesn’t.

    I also listened to the CHOGM wrap-up session on Saturday via NewsRadio, where she did very well indeed. That’s what she was actually doing when Abbott reckons she should have been on the phone to Joyce.

    A number of good points were made on Australia Talks tonight. Andrew Stewart said that if Joyce had declared his intention to ground the fleet in a week’s time he would have achieved the same result without trashing the Qantas brand and inconveniencing thousands.

    Tony Sheldon said today:

    It’s no doubt that the strategy is to ultimately achieve default Qantas and have Asian wages right across their operations. We’ve seen it with the flight attendants where they have been flying them in on Jetstar Asia then having them work three to five days in the domestic market working for as little as $400 a month.

    I’d like to see more information and analysis on what the Government’s “open skies” policies contribute to the situation Qantas workers find themselves in.

  265. Mark Bahnisch

    @263 – Martin, perhaps there’s a little bit of frustration coming out at the sheer volume of the volley of the pot-shots taken at Julia Gillard, the Labor government and all its works from just about everyone of every political persuasion.

    I think the critique launched, just at this point, was very unhelpful politically. It’s contributed to, or reinforced, the now absolutely default tendency to discuss *everything* in terms of the egregious sins, errors and heresies and other failings of the ALP. It assists in shifting the focus of discussion off the actual issues, and away from the culpability of Joyce and Qantas at a time when there’s enormous effort from the media and business elites to exculpate them.

    So I think it’s poorly timed, and very politically unhelpful.

  266. Jim McDonald

    What country allows its flag carrier to offshore its international operations? And if Qantas keeps losing in international operations, what makes Joyce think he can do better in more competitive Singapore? And why is cross -subsidisation not an option in a complex business like Qantas?

    Last financial year QF made a quarter billion dollar profit despite volcano clouds in Europe [which cost it about $48m], and other natural disasters cost it another $200m+, hits to its bottom line that occurred to all airlines. And then there were serious inflight incidents including the A380 engine episodes that, while covered by Rolls Royce insurance, would have added to bookings issues. So, there is no doubt in my mind that Joyce’s offshoring agenda, which is the overarching cause of its industrial problems, isn’t as sound as Qantas spin suggests.

    That the Board should offer 71% increase to Joyce in the middle of industrial agreement negotiations is provocative to be sure, but it reflects a hubris that leaves no confidence in Qantas management. Furthermore, overseas expansionism by Australian business has an poor record of success despite examples like News Limited.

    The Board’s and Alan Joyce’s performance don’t leave me with any confidence that our flagship airline is in good hands. Joyce’s adventurism over the weekend should leave all Australians and Qantas shareholders uneasy about the future of the airline that was built up on taxpayers’ funds before being privatised.

  267. Chris

    I wish the unions would drop the racist elements they keep pushing about poor maintenance work in Asia. There’s no reason that workers in Asia can’t do just as good a job as Australian ones – there’s nothing inherently better about Australians. Also just because something (labour ) may be cheaper does not mean its inferior, especially when cost of living is much lower in that country (the workers may well be earning what is considered very good salaries for that country).

    Jim @ 266 – the outsourcing strategy is a long term one. If you keep pushing hard decisions back until they’re “really” necessary you end up like Ansett.

    Andrew Bartlett also makes a very good point about what people mean by job security – it can be about the job security of current workers or about the security of the actual position itself in the long term. I think the unions deliberately mix the two.

    I think there’s a lot of public sympathy for the former but I’m not so sure about the latter. Restricting the latter definitely impedes progress (eg apply it to security of positions in the coal fired electricity sector).

  268. Mark Bahnisch

    A good piece from Peter Lewis: