Qantas flight delays loom; engineers to strike from Thursday

By danwarne, August 24 2011
Qantas flight delays loom; engineers to strike from Thursday

Qantas engineers will press ahead with a plan to strike for an hour each day until just before Christmas, putting the airline's unmatched record of punctuality under threat.

The union behind the strikes, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), says its members will continue to work during the one hour stoppages, but only if Qantas pays them overtime rates -- something the airline has roundly rejected.

The strikes are designed to minimise disruption to flights overall while still costing Qantas a substantial amount to restaff the engineering shifts.

The flag carrier is emphatic that it will not be paying striking engineers overtime rates to keep working.

“No Australian company would accept this,” said Qantas spokesperson Olivia Wirth. “What incentive would the union have to reach an agreement with workers earning significantly more money while on strike?”

The strikes are scheduled every day from tomorrow until December 16th.

The union's key complaint is that Qantas plans to shrink its Australian international operations in favour of growing its new super-premium Asian airline subsidiary.

However, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said today "the new airline will not cost a single Australian job. Not one."

Meanwhile, key competitor Virgin Australia yesterday announced its longhaul pilots and cabin crew had signed off on a new enterprise bargaining deal (EBA) without conflict.

Former Qantas executive and now Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti said the airline would be prepared to employ up to 200 Qantas engineers if they lose their jobs under Qantas' restructuring.

Virgin Australia is just a percentage point behind Qantas in on-time performance, with Borghetti promising that it would equal or better its competitor by the end of the year - the specific timeframe being targeted by the engineers' union.

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