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Qantas Takes On The Transport Workers Union -

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Qantas Takes On The Transport Workers Union

Broadcast: 20/09/2011

Reporter: Mary Gearin

The power struggle between Unions and Qantas continues. This time it's the Transport Workers Union.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Industrial action was back in airports across the country today as Qantas
staff stepped up their fight against the company's plan to streamline its operations. Qantas
surprised the Transport Workers' Union by using new tactics and refusing to allow striking workers
to even start their shifts. The union's now alleging safety breaches today by Qantas staff who
filled in for those who were on strike. The escalating rhetoric could signal the start of a bumpy
few months for the airline, as Mary Gearin reports.

PASSENGER: I think it's unnecessary. I think it's blackmail, in my opinion.

PASSENGER II: It's very inconvenient for passengers, but if it works and gives them a just wage,
well, I'm happy.

MARY GEARIN, REPORTER: All aboard for more disruption. 6,000 passengers around the country were
delayed or grounded by four hours of strike action by baggage handlers, caterers and freight staff.

OLIVIA WIRTH, QANTAS SPOKESWOMAN: It is damaging to the Qantas brand, and overall, it's a general
frustration for the organisation.

WAYNE MADER, VIC/TAS SECRETARY, TWU: The CEO gets a 71 per cent increase in his salary package,
takes him up to a mere $5 million, and they would have spent untold company money with strike

TOM BALLANTYNE, ORIENT AVIATION MAGAZINE: They'll have lost money today, that's for sure. It's the
longer term impacts which are really worrying if this continues to go on like this.

MARY GEARIN: The TWU wants a five per cent pay rise. It says salaries and conditions are being
gradually eroded as jobs are moved into a new Qantas subsidiary company.

WAYNE MADER: It's a low-cost agreement, and of course this is one form of outsourcing or
offshoring. Depends on whether you're a licensed aircraft engineer, an international pilot or a
Qantas ground staff. They all sort of amount to the same thing.

OLIVIA WIRTH: In fact they are paid 12 per cent more than their Virgin counterparts. These are TWU
members that work on the baggage area. So, we are a good employee, we're very much committed to
those ongoing good terms and conditions that we offer, not only to TWU workers, but also to our
engineers and pilots.

MARY GEARIN: This could be just the beginning of the turbulence facing Qantas on several fronts.
Pilots are in conciliation with the company in Fair Work Australia as part of their push to have
Qantas pilots or their equivalent crew Qantas flights. And engineers have scheduled rolling
stoppages each week for the rest of the year over Qantas' plan to establish new Asian operations
and lose 1,000 jobs in a restructure.

STEVE PURVINAS, SECRETARY, ENGINEERS UNION: This dispute is not going to last for a few weeks.

MARY GEARIN: How long do you think it will last?

STEVE PURVINAS: Oh, look, in my view, this dispute will last at least 12 months.

TOM BALLANTYNE: I think it's going to be a pretty rough time for Qantas over even the next few
months. This isn't gonna end quickly. They've got a lot of hard talking to do, a lot of hard
arguing. We have a very unstable situation at the moment.

OLIVIA WIRTH: We are seeing some sort of co-ordinated action being - taking place by the three
unions of the engineers, the pilots and most recently the TWU.

STEVE PURVINAS: Look, there's absolutely no doubt that our unions are talking to each other. Why
wouldn't we? I mean, Qantas have declared war on 35,000 employees.

MARY GEARIN: And as far as you're concerned, is this a war?

STEVE PURVINAS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, Qantas are starting up their companies up in Asia, they're
funding it with Australian money at Qantas' expense.

MARY GEARIN: Not only are the unions talking war, late this afternoon the TWU national secretary
raised the temperature even further.

TONY SHELDON, NATIONAL SECRETARY, TWU: Between 10 o'clock last night and 4 o'clock this morning,
Qantas literally sent a number of thugs around to people's homes banging on doors in the middle of
the night demanding people to come down and receive letters.

MARY GEARIN: Qantas says these were letters they were legally obligated to send and weren't at all

Steve Purvinas from the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association claims Qantas has a $3
billion fund to fight the unions.

STEVE PURVINAS: I know about this when I sit there with a Qantas manager and he says we got $3
billion to fight you with. We have no doubt they want to destroy Qantas. They've been about that
for the last 10 years since they've been setting up these dodgy labour hire firms.

OLIVIA WIRTH: That's a very unusual claim by the union leader. The $3 billion is all the cash
reserves for the Qantas group and this was listed in our annual report and we use this available
money to fund our fleet going forward. We don't see this as a fight. It's unfortunate that the
union leader is using those particular terms. That is very combative language that's being used.

MARY GEARIN: If this is a war, the TWU was briefly outmanoeuvred. The union was stunned when
workers were not permitted to start work before the scheduled strike action. Instead, retrained
staff from other parts of Qantas took over the roles.

WAYNE MADER: It's quite astounding and totally unnecessary. Our action was strictly limited to a
four-hour stoppage, and to lock people out and turn it into seven hours and then blame the union
for unreasonable activity is just simply making a mockery of it.

OLIVIA WIRTH: These Qantas management staff, including people in IT, office workers and admin,
today were put in contingency roles across the Qantas business and these were very important roles
and very important positions to ensure that we could continue operating.

MARY GEARIN: Spies were out, looking for safety slip-ups from the pinch hitters.

STEVE PURVINAS: We've had reports coming in all morning about mistakes that these managers have
made out on the tarmacs they've had. Some of them have driven in front of aircraft as they're
taxiing, and also they've been using their mobile phones on the tarmac whilst aircraft have been
refuelling which is really dangerous.

MARY GEARIN: Late today 7.30 received written incident reports of safety breaches this morning.
Qantas says any breaches are investigated as a matter of course.

TOM BALLANTYNE: And the unions always bring up this bogey man of falling safety standards and that
sort of thing when they have a dispute with management. I don't believe that that occurs.

STEVE PURVINAS: We're gonna win this war; we have to. Qantas'll lose an icon if we don't.

LEIGH SALES: Mary Gearin reporting.