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Issue #1497      13 April 2011

Qantas: “immoral and un-Australian”

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has labelled the training by Qantas of overseas “strike breakers” as immoral and un-Australian, comparing it to the Patrick’s waterfront dispute of 1998 when workers were trained in the Middle East.

TWU national secretary, Tony Sheldon, has called on Qantas to come clean on the extent of its overseas training operations after chief executive Alan Joyce admitted to the practice on media reports week.

“Qantas has said they forecast a seven percent increase in international capacity and eight percent in domestic – they have the capacity to pay their workforce a decent wage,” Mr Sheldon said 

“The Royal Bank of Scotland has said they are the best-placed airline in the world when it comes to fuel prices, and Qantas themselves are predicting a massive profit this year.

“Yet management is driven by the ideology that the workforce is a disposable commodity rather than an asset and that needs to be addressed.”

He said Qantas needed to come clean on who they are training, who is doing the training and why it has to be done in secret in another country? Why are they hiding it around the other side of the world?, he asked

“This is not a contingency plan for industrial action – it can only be read as Qantas making a deliberate attack on its workforce and it should be exposed for what it truly is,” Mr Sheldon said.

Meanwhile, the TWU has called for a complete upgrade of all security across Qantas operations after yet another security breach at a busy capital city terminal.

Melbourne’s Tullamarine Qantas terminal was evacuated after a man entered a secure area and was lost by security on CCTV.

“This incident at Melbourne airport has been a long time coming,” said Mr Seldon. Staff from around the country held safety meetings in March 2009, after a man was killed at a Qantas terminal in Sydney during a wild bikie brawl.

They called on Qantas to improve security at the terminals, and stop outsourcing work to contractors who are untrained and unscreened. Now Qantas is suing the union and the workforce over those meetings.

“Here we are two years and two weeks later and we have another nightmare in the terminal – when is management going to get off their backsides and fix this situation?” Mr Sheldon asked.

He said the union was concerned at reports Qantas has changed contractors at the terminal recently, leaving staff unprepared for the event.

In other sections of the Qantas group, this outsourcing of work has led to lower wages, higher turnover of staff, poor training, no security checks and a loss of corporate knowledge every time someone leaves for better wages and conditions.
“This is not an industrial issue, this is a safety issue. Qantas will again claim we are attacking the brand, but nothing damages the brand more than poor security and poor service – we are not seeing these failures constantly happening elsewhere,” Mr Sheldon said.  

Next article – Mental health a burning issue

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