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