The Guardian March 5, 2003


Air safety watchdog "a safety threat"

Federal aviation watchdog, Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), 
stands accused of putting strike breakers ahead of public safety. Two 
groups of airline workers were scathing about CASA's "hands-off" approach 
to industry standards after it refused to censure Virgin or Qantas for 
taking shortcuts in the face of industrial unrest.

"It is standard for our people to go through two full weeks of emergency 
procedures before they are allowed to fly, then regular refreshers", Flight 
Attendants Association (FAAA) Assistant Secretary Michael Mijatov reported 
after Qantas crammed casuals through a weekend safety course and then used 
them to replace striking international cabin crew last week.

"CASA was informed of the potential safety implications but appears to have 
given them the thumbs-up", Mr Mijatov said.

Qantas has added the 106 short-haul casuals to a roster of management, ex-
management and overseas-based non-union crew on standby to scab in the 
event of further industrial action.

Fourteen hundred angry flight attendants overwhelmingly endorsed further 
industrial action in support of their enterprise agreement (EBA) claims at 
a round of capital city stopwork meetings last week. Only one vote was 
recorded against the resolution.

The FAAA is battling to force Qantas to honour a "recognition" clause 
written into its last EBA. The company, which last week posted a record 
half-yearly profit, had agreed to "recognise" the contribution of cabin 
crew in return for a crewing agreement that has saved the company $40 
million in wages.

Qantas argues its "recognition" does not need to be financial.

Meanwhile, the Licensed Engineers Association (ALEA) is furious at CASA's 
green light for a Virgin Blue cost-cutting measure that authorises pilots 
to perform sensitive safety checks, taking the place of qualified 
maintenance engineers.

"This is not World Best practice, it is World Cheapest practice", 
association President Michael O'Rance said.

"It is dumbfounding that CASA has weighed into this dispute in support of 
the airline.

Mr O'Rance said his members had logged three incidents where pilots had 
approved aircraft that were, in fact, unfit for flight. The ALEA will put 
the matter before members at a round of stopwork meetings this month.

Mr O'Rance accused the federal safety authority of "doing the bidding of 
the airlines".

In other airline news, Air New Zealand was accused of double standards as 
Australian-based workers struck for the first time this week.

Ninety ground staff took industrial action after seven months of 
unsuccessful negotiations over wages and conditions.

Australian Services Union (ASU) Assistant Secretary Kristyn Thompson said 
the company had one rule for its managers and another for those who did the 
work. She was referring to a leaked memo from managing director, Ralph 
Norris, which set out pay rises and performance bonuses for managers, 
effective from February 1.

"Some of these managers have sat across the table and insisted workers who 
have not had a pay increase since 1999 take another 12-month wage freeze," 
Thompson said. "The hypocrisy is staggering."

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*Acknowledgement: Workers Online http://workers.labor.net.au

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