Qantas grounds all flights in labour dispute

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Qantas is the largest airline, and the flag carrier, of Australia

Australian international airline Qantas is grounding all its flights with immediate effect in the midst of a major industrial dispute.

The airline announced yesterday that there "will be no further Qantas domestic departures or international departures anywhere in the world" after 5pm AEDT. They then plan to "lock out" all employees involved in the action at 8pm AEDT on Monday. Flights will remain grounded indefinitely until a decision with unions over pay and working conditions is reached.

Thousands of passengers have been stranded in airports across the world by the grounding. Qantas will offer refunds to cancelling customers and "rebooking flexibility" to those wishing to defer travel. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce labelled his own decision "unbelievable".

The move prompted an emergency hearing into the dispute by Fair Work Australia in Melbourne which went on until the early hours of Sunday morning, adjourned until 2pm AEDT. It comes following a series of strikes by Qantas staff including baggage handlers and pilots which Qantas say are costing them A$15 million a week. This grounding, by comparison, is estimated to lose A$20m a day.

Qantas executive Lyell Stambi told the hearing that altogether recent action had cost them around A$68m, and claimed rival airlines "have access to cheaper labour". According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he went on to say that forward bookings had taken a big hit: "It makes sense. If passengers can't be sure... They're less likely to book with us."

Meanwhile, the Australian and International Pilots Association have spoken to the SMH to condemn the move, with vice president Richard Woodward labelling it "premeditated, unnecessary and grossly irresponsible". He claims the airline "has locked out short-haul 737 pilots who aren't even involved in any action at all," and that all anyone in his union has done is wear red ties and make some on-board anouncements.


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