Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Qantas restructure under fire after axeing of 1000 jobs By Steve Creedy and Ewin Hannan

 Qantas is facing a firestorm of union reaction and intensive lobbying in Canberra after announcing plans to cut 1000 jobs as part of a restructuring that includes a massive aircraft order and the establishment of two new carriers in Asia.

Photo: Sam Mooy
 Qantas pilot Nathan Safe at Sydney International Airport yesterday after the company announced plans to cut jobs.

 Unions yesterday vowed to work to stymie the move to set up a joint-venture, premium service airline in an as yet undisclosed Asian hub and said they would intensify industrial action already under way in support of pay and job security claims.
 The restructuring will see about 500 cabin crew, 200 engineering and 180 pilots' jobs go as the airline retires four Boeing 747 aircraft and defers delivery of six flagship Airbus A380 superjumbos for up to six years. The remaining redundancies would be in management and areas such as airport administration.
 Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told the ABC's 7.30: "We are coming up to the 10th anniversary of Ansett's collapse - it's very important for us to recognise the mistakes of the past, very important for us to recognise that great brands can disappear. And if great brands do not change, they will no longer be around and they have no right to existence. I want Qantas to be around for 90 years."
 Mr Joyce said the job cuts would be tough. "Consistent with best practices, we expect the majority of these redundancies will be voluntary."
 He said about 400 cabin crew had applied for voluntary redundancies previously announced as part of the total. He said some pilots would be offered leave without pay to take up opportunities in other parts of the group. And there would also be other job opportunities. The airline has ordered up to 110 Airbus A320s, including 78 of the efficient A320neos, to back its expansion and replace older aircraft at Jetstar. At least 35 of these will be deployed to the new Asian joint ventures, 11 of them going to the full-service airline.
 "Our expansion into Asia provides an opening for people to capitalise on their Qantas training and experience overseas," Mr Joyce said . "This is the way of the future for smart Australian companies."
 Mr Joyce defended the job losses and the move to set up joint ventures in Asia as necessary to save the loss-making international arm of Qantas, which has seen its market share plummet to below 20 per cent in recent years as it has suffered increased competition from Middle Eastern and Asian carriers.
 In addition to the premium airline, which will not be called Qantas or Jetstar, the airline is looking at setting up a Japan-based low-cost carrier with Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi.
 The new venture will no longer fly to London from Hong Kong and Bangkok under a restructuring of its alliance with British Airways, and will switch its South American destination from Buenos Aires to Santiago to take advantage of local carrier LAN's extensive network.
 But union officials say management only has itself to blame for letting the international arm wither and vowed to fight the changes. A crisis meeting is due to be held in Melbourne today.
 Australian and International Pilots Association spokesman Nathan Safe, a Qantas pilot, said moving jobs to Asia would jeopardise safety standards.
 "There's a saying in the flying industry, 'If you think safety is expensive, try having an accident'," he said in Sydney. "Why would you flush down the toilet 90 years of safety excellence just in search of saving a few dollars?"
 Vowing to fight the jobs cuts, unions demanded the Gillard government investigate whether the airline's plans would place the company in breach of the Qantas Sale Act.
 Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said yesterday the government would move if the airline was found to have breached the act. However, it was his understanding it had not.
 "The company is certainly very conscious of the Qantas Act," Mr Albanese said. "They are saying that everything they are doing is in compliance with that act. However, the government will, of course, take our own advice."
 ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said it was "one of the darkest days in the history of Qantas", showed contempt for a loyal workforce, and "raised questions about whether the company could continue to portray itself as an Australian airline".
 Tony Sheldon, federal secretary of the Transport Workers Union, announced the airline's catering staff would be balloted over coming weeks about taking industrial action.


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