Unions vow to fight Qantas lay-offs

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Ben W, Oct 23, 2005.

  1. Ben W

    Ben W
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    Unions vow to fight Qantas lay-offs
    Oct 21, 2005

    Unions in Australia have vowed to fight a Qantas plan to send thousands of maintenance jobs overseas, which workers say will risk airline safety standards.

    The Qantas move follows similar plans by Air New Zealand announced earlier this week.

    Qantas says it will make a decision about whether to relocate a significant part of its 6,900-strong maintenance and engineering sector offshore within three to four months.

    Such a move would affect operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Avalon, near Geelong in Victoria.

    Both the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), which represents most Qantas maintenance workers, and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), say the move would have serious safety implications.

    Together with the federal opposition, the unions have called for the government to intervene and save the jobs.

    But Prime Minister John Howard today said he couldn't stop the company making a commercial decision, even though he preferred to see the jobs stay in Australia.

    Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said the airline had no realistic alternative other than to make widespread maintenance changes to stay competitive.

    But he said safety would never be put at risk.

    The airline now had to decide whether to restructure and relocate the engineering and maintenance sector extensively within Australia or move significant parts of the business offshore.

    Dixon said he preferred the onshore option.

    "However, if we cannot, by working together with staff, make the business globally competitive we will have to pursue the alternative."

    ALAEA industrial manager Chris Ryan said any attempt to export maintenance and engineering jobs posed serious safety concerns for the travelling public.

    ALAEA represents 2,500 licensed aircraft engineers whose role is to certify the airworthiness of the 125-strong Qantas fleet.

    Ryan said Australia had the world's highest airline safety standards.

    They are not matched by the emerging airline markets in China, India, South-East Asia and Latin America, he said.

    "We know for a fact the standards of aircraft maintenance in these countries is not at the standard that the Australian travelling public has come to know and come to expect."

    AMWU secretary Doug Cameron said the union would fight any plan by the airline to outsource thousands of maintenance jobs and refused to rule out a boycott of the airline or widespread strike action.

    "We wouldn't rule anything out, this is such a serious attack on working people in Australia," Cameron said.

    The possibility of putting jobs offshore was a way of frightening workers into making concessions within the federal government's workplace reform agenda, he said.

    He also called on the prime minister to intervene and "actually convene a meeting of Qantas and the union and the workers and sit down and look at the real issues that will make Qantas continue to be the most profitable airline in the country".

    The call was echoed by federal opposition leader Kim Beazley who said: "We don't want to see the Kangaroo taken out of Qantas".

    But Howard said he had no power over the airline.

    "You can't stop the company as part of its commercial arrangements doing something that might mean there are fewer jobs in Australia, it happens all the time," Howard told Southern Cross radio.

    "I would expect that Qantas would only do something like this if it is absolutely necessary."


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