The deadline for and three of its unions to reach contract agreements is fast approaching, and it appears that little progress has been made in reconciling labor-management differences.
Australia’s top labor court on Oct. 31 set a 21-day deadline for the sides to reach agreement. Half of that period has already gone, and statements from union leaders last week signal that deals are not close. Fair Work Australia (FWA) has ruled that the disputes will go to binding arbitration if the parties fail to reach agreements, although FWA can grant another 21 days if there are signs of progress.
Qantas says it “remains hopeful” of reaching agreements with the unions representing its international pilots, licensed aircraft engineers, and baggage handlers. The carrier has attended five meetings with the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), and two each with the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association and the Transport Workers Union. Further meetings with all three are scheduled this week.
The labor dispute came to a head on Oct. 29, when Qantas announced it would lock out workers and ground its mainline fleet in response to industrial action by the unions. The government asked FWA to step in, and the labor panel terminated the industrial action and set the arbitration deadline after two days of emergency meetings.
Since then, however, the AIPA has launched a court challenge against the ban on industrial action. The union says the Qantas grounding was disproportionate to the pilots’ action, which was limited to wearing non-regulation ties and making announcements during flights. Pilot union leaders have stressed that negotiations will continue despite their legal challenge.
The other two unions, which had been conducting limited strikes, also are considering challenging the ban on industrial action.