Were Qantas right to stop all their flights and services?

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By Georgina Ristich on 5.11.2023

Were Qantas right to stop all their flights and services?

Qantas, the airline with the tagline “Spirit of Australia”. One struggles to see whether the Spirit of Australia was in the air when Alan Joyce, Chief Executive of Qantas locked out his workforce and grounded an entire fleet of planes over a pay dispute between three unions last week. The tension between management and unions began in August when Alan Joyce announced departmental moves to Asia, though what he failed to mention was that in the process of this “globalization” 1,000 jobs would be cut. You would have thought that this would have been the worst part to the saga; but obviously Alan Joyce had other plans.

The radical decision was apparently justified by explaining that by grounding planes, it ceased any intentions of industrial action. That’s all very well and good, but does that make up for the millions of dollars wasted, the 70,000 passengers stranded and the tattered reputation? I think not. The only people reaping the rewards from this debacle are the likes of Richard Branson who is most likely rubbing his hands with glee as ex-Qantas customers flock to his services.

So what triggered this decision? Was it a threat from the unions that there would be strikes? Bearing in mind the government had not been informed of the date of the grounding and with the Australian Prime minister calling it “an extreme and irresponsible action”-this was an apparent shock to all. Even the Australian International Pilot’s Association stated: “Pilots have made it clear from the start that we would not take industrial action that disrupts passengers. We have stuck to that to this day.” It seems that, it was more the looming threat of industrial action than any physical proof of one.

However with The International Pilot’s Association having remained loyal to their intentions then who is to say the others didn’t think the same? It is the lack of communication and most would say reckless move that meant the public was also dragged into a feud that could have been dealt with if management had allowed time to listen from the start.

It is within any union’s right to take industrial action if they feel necessary, as long as a date is given in advance in order for there to be as little disruption for customers, passengers etc. as possible. Alan Joyce, as the head of the company should not in anyway be hindering these people’s opportunities to voice their concerns over pay. Even if industrial action had taken place, which was still uncertain at the time, it wouldn’t have even caused half the chaos that was caused on October 30th.

There are always going to be strikes or grievances over pay especially during a recession and not only that but fewer people are able to afford to pay for long haul flights so the customers you have should be cherished. Alan Joyce said that he would be generously compensating the customers as an apology, but what about the compensation to the workers who lost out on a day’s work? If the tribunal goes well, it will work in favour of the unions and bring Alan Joyce down from his high horse.



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