Qantas planes ordered back in air

Qantas chief executive and managing director Alan Joyce

The Fair Work Australia industrial tribunal has ordered a return to work by Qantas employees after a dramatic weekend shutdown.

About 70,000 passengers worldwide were stranded when chief executive Alan Joyce abruptly shut down the airline's operations on Saturday because of continuing strikes and industrial action by three unions.

After the tribunal's decision was made late on Sunday in Melbourne, Mr Joyce said Qantas would get its planes back in the air as soon as it could.

"It could be as early as Monday afternoon on a limited schedule with the approval of the regulator,” he said. "I apologise to all Qantas passengers that have been impacted by the industrial action by unions over the past few months and in particular the past few days."

The airline must now put a safety case to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to gain permission to resume operations.

The tribunal heard more than 14 hours of testimony from the airline, the Australian federal and state governments and unions after the emergency hearing was called by the  federal government on Saturday.

Workers have held rolling strikes and refused overtime work for weeks out of worry that some of Qantas' 35,000 jobs would be moved overseas in a restructuring plan.

The unions wanted a temporary suspension of a proposed employee lockout but the airline said the strikes had been too devastating and it needed certainty to continue operating.

In a victory for the company, tribunal president Geoffrey Giudice said the panel decided a temporary suspension would still risk Qantas' grounding its fleet in the future and would not protect the tourism and aviation industry from damage.

The decision means Qantas has to reverse plans to lock out its workforce and unions are prevented from taking legally protected industrial action.

The decision also appears to vindicate Mr Joyce's strategy of bringing the industrial dispute to a head rather than suffering a drawn-out campaign that had already cost $A68 million and was slugging the airline at least $15 million a week.

The grounding affected 108 planes and cancelled 474 flights in 22 countries, though Qantas and Jetstar flights across the Tasman operated by the JetConnect subsidiary continued as normal.

However, Air New Zealand had to send staff to Australia to handle check-ins and baggage that are usually done by Qantas workers.

Qantas says the shutdown cost it $A20 million a day in lost revenue while the federal government estimated the daily cost to the tourism industry at $A256 million in the consumption of goods and services, and $A93 million a day in gross domestic product..

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31 Comments & Questions

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Unions are nothing more than self-serving parasitic individuals hell bent on inflicting industrial / commercial blackmail / extortion to line their own back pockets.

They tried to disrupt and hijack the NZ film industry over the Hobbit saga... that failed, so they're getting their pet politicians - namely the Labour Party to try and run the country instead.

WTF??

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Your first sentence is more applicable to the board and CEO of Qantas.

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The Irish idiot, Joyce, brought this on his own head: hydraulics up his own salary (as with the board), and expects the employees to batten down the hatches when it comes to theirs. He doesn't set the example, so he should eff-off back to Dublin.

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Problem with commercial dispute is who is king....employer or employees?

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Its good to see, government's will over ride black mailing union's when needed all be it a bit late.

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@ Danny boy: Jesus! Have you ever been to school?

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Business Australia 40 - Love. Serving for the match. The Australian Unions have had this coming with their 1960's outdated style. And their only friends - ie Gillard and the Labour Government friends are powerless to support them without some serious changes given how low they are in the polls. Changing my holiday plans and will now book with Qantas.

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I too will make a point of flying Qantas wherever possible in future.

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Although at least tradesmen & labourers do better over there than they would here, purely & spmly because they are protecetd by unions.

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Protected by the unions - yeah right. Unions in Australia have their heads in the sand and will ultimately cost lots of jobs because of their lack of ability to understand economics 101.

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Of course, there is never two sides to a story - isn't that right NBR readers? It's usually those bloody unions, but sometimes it's those bloody fat cats.

None of you know the facts, you just jump to conclusions. You're no smarter nor wise than the average beneficiary.

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I know nix about this dispute, but I am fascinated by the brinksmanship that has occurred and bemused by the unions clearly caught short footed now scrambling for some moral high ground in the media. Nothing like a good old aussie biffo I reckon.

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Sack the management for this kneejerk reaction.

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Precisely how do you sack the CEO when he had board approval and major shareholder approval????

How do you know it was knee jerk. My GUESS, is that they had some certain action plans to implement based on key dates.

I will Travel with Qantas more often now

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Because the PM of Australia said so.

Be careful you don't get caught in further lockouts if you need to get to your destination on time.

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I will make sure I leave early. The Aussie PM may get the sack first!!!!

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Qantas staff and Unions would do well to reflect on the Pilots' Industrial action of 1989. Seemingly, they have learned nothing from that dispute which saw the owners of Ansett (Rupert Murdoch and Sir Peter Abeles) combine with the Government owned domestic operator Australian Airlines to crush the belligerent Pilots' Union. On that occasion the owners/managers of both Airlines were supported by the Labor Government - yes, Labor Government - of Bob Hawke.
All 1300 Pilots lost their jobs, 800 of whom could subsequently only find work outside Australia. Others never got to fly again.
Then, as now, the Unions failed to recognise that they were taking a knife to a gunfight. Watch again for Qantas Pilots driving Melbourne trams.

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Qantas staff and Unions would do well to reflect on the Pilots' Industrial action of 1989. Seemingly, they have learned nothing from that dispute which saw the owners of Ansett (Rupert Murdoch and Sir Peter Abeles) combine with the Government owned domestic operator Australian Airlines to crush the belligerent Pilots' Union. On that occasion the owners/managers of both Airlines were supported by the Labor Government - yes, Labor Government - of Bob Hawke.
All 1300 Pilots lost their jobs, 800 of whom could subsequently only find work outside Australia. Others never got to fly again.
Then, as now, the Unions failed to recognise that they were taking a knife to a gunfight. Watch again for Qantas Pilots driving Melbourne trams.

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Not many of the bloggers here have actually been on the receiving end of their livelihoods being outsourced overseas, it would seem, with very little recourse other than to bite the bullet and to roll the dice for other jobs in a recessive-plagued economy with high unemployment rates...

Corporates do have a responsibility, sometimes overriding, to their respective boards to deliver shareholder value. We have seen over the past few years some companies shipping their contact centres overseas, for example, so the EBIT figures might look good in the short term and show ‘improving’ performance even though the operational complexity ends up being more costly in the longer term, not to mention the customer service being sent back to the dark ages.

What’s more, while Qantas is aiming to save A$200m a year by those job cuts in Aussie, grounding the entire fleet has been costing the company about A$20m A DAY in lost revenues and the country A$256 daily in lost incomes from tourism. Playing chicken might be good for the ego of some, but rarely makes good commercial sense, just like Russian roulette does not when it comes to long term sustainability and brand strategy.

I find it a bitter irony that most execs like Alan Joyce plead for more loyalty, engagement, commitment and hard-work from their staff while finding it much easier to axe their jobs rather than coming up with smarter, more competitive and game-changing longer term strategies to better grow their business and top-line revenues and EBIT. One could be forgiven for believing that the latter is actually what they were hired for as any monkey with a calculator could improve the bottom-line line by sending jobs overseas at a cheaper cost and get multi-million $$$ bonuses at the end of the financial year for that great epiphany of a strategy.

Companies like Apple, Google and Amazon have actually grown in the recession, not by thinking the same way, doing the same thing and cutting jobs to save costs to be able to afford to do so, but through innovative and highly competitive strategies that actually work, both in the short and long terms. And it is also a sad fact that for an iconic American company like Apple, most of their staff are actually in China...

The ‘Occupy’ protests around the world by the so-called 99% came about because despite destroying the economies of many countries in the world, most of the ‘1%’ grew their fortunes exponentially in that time to multi-billionaires, while the rest, well everyone else, are told to get off their backsides and find a job that does not exist.

Unions at least provide the platform for a dialogue to be had and by raising the awareness of some impacts that some corporate decisions might have, both in the short term and the long term. Both the US and numerous European countries have shipped their manufacturing power to Asia over the years to look good by improving those same bottom-line numbers, then in tough times like now, their governments beg the Chinese to buy even more of their bonds. Where is the sovereign independence and true economic power of a nation in that, I wonder?

Perhaps before leaving Air NZ and jumping on the next Qantas flight, it might help to ask what is truly driving this saga now, what are the short term impacts to all, and the longer term impacts for the both the company and the country. If after that you still want to fly Qantas at your next opportunity, then vote against your own personal and national interests and join your local ‘Tea Party’.

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You say: "while Qantas is aiming to save A$200m a year by those job cuts in Aussie, grounding the entire fleet has been costing the company about A$20m A DAY in lost revenues" but conveniently neglect to say that Qantas has been losing A$15m A DAY for 15 months due to the ongoing industrial action according to the SMH. To up the ante and get the industrial action negated for an additional A$5m a day for 4 days makes very good business sense.

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The numbers might show that it makes good business sense now, but in truth it does not. The commercials are clearly not the only consideration in that equation.

As has been mentioned in a comment above using Google as an example of success in tough times, the cornerstone of that success has been directly through staff engagement & their contributions to innovate, with the freedom & security to engender that spirit. That’s how modern and successful global businesses thrive, not by the ‘my way or the highway’ old-fashioned approach. By this action alone, not to mention Qantas’s inability to find a better and more inclusive alternative by allowing this to drag on for ‘15 months at the cost of $15m a day’ which alone should seriously bring into question the capability of that senior management team, Qantas has done serious damage to its own iconic international brand and the impact on the productivity & sense of belonging of its 35,000 employees, especially in this pervading volatile economic mood. Those 35,000 heads will now be fundamentally more concerned about their own livelihoods than what’s right for the business long-term, especially now when they consider that they will be locked out of their places of work if they join a union to represent their rights.

It is not only the goodwill & motivation of 35,000 staff that has been potentially lost, but the appeal of Qantas shares, the freedom of implementing other strategies in the future by that management team as these will now be the subject of more minute and public scrutiny.

Sure, some heads will roll over the coming weeks to show that someone somewhere miscalculated the perception management element and all’s well again at the farm, but the “Spirit of Australia” on the national & international scene has already begun to look a lot less appealing, more mendacious and self-centred.

On the upside however, at least Qantas will have the new custom of some readers here.

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Quantas could have simply applied to Fair Work Australia to terminate the industrial dispute by the union and then seek either a voluntary arbitration agreement within 21 days or a forced arbitration settlement imposed by Fair Work Australia. This is what will now be forced on Quantas anyway.

Hard to see it as anything other than kneejerk and poorly thought through - alienate customers, annoy your govt, hurt your economy and damage your own shareholders interests? Sack the management that dreamed this bit of nonsense up and didn't forsee this blindingly obvious result from a simple application that they should have made instead of the govt..

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To make an application to Fair Work would have made even better sense.

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Qantas top honchos have never been shy about feathering their own nests, and that's half the reason there's so much antagonism and strife between top-level management and employees.

Cast your mind back, a few years ago, when the then-CEO Geoff Dixon was advocating for the leveraged buyout from the private equity firm Allco; to be financed by junk bonds. Dixon, supported by the chairwoman, stood to gain a s%*t load from the sell-off. And we all know what happened to Allco, don't we?

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It's the Ozzie disease and Qantas management is prepared to take the cure for it.

Happened in 1987 too and the Australian govt used Hercules to fly passengers around Australia.

The Oz pilots also tried the same stunt with SIA in 1980 and was well & truly fixed by the Singapore government. The famous taunt was "if you find the industrial relations more harmonious and rewarding to work in Australia, go back home."

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It's the Ozzie disease and Qantas management is prepared to take the cure for it.

Happened in 1987 too and the Australian govt used Hercules to fly passengers around Australia.

The Oz pilots also tried the same stunt with SIA in 1980 and was well & truly fixed by the Singapore government. The famous taunt was "if you find the industrial relations more harmonious and rewarding to work in Australia, go back home."

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So Spicey he wrote it twicey.

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So Qantas opened up a company in NZ to hire staff at lower NZ pay rates. This is what we should be concerned with.

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Would you prefer Qantas stayed in Australia and kept their jobs there?

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Of course not! Perish the thought stillborn!

We are cheap, ready & able, and have record-breaking unemployment and no morals.

Like we did with Warner Bros, we should welcome Alan Joyce's outfit here too!

Any law we can change or legislate quickly for you, boss? No worries! Done! Sweet as. See you again soon. G'dday, cobber!

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Please limit your comments Anon 1.20PM. That is just too much common sense for this column!!!!

Its great we have so many experts here. I have enjoyed watching the process though. Sometimes it is better to make a decision than none at all. The lockout vertainly became a catalyst for action by all parties - and they were within the rules??

Who knows what was being discussed behind the doors - not me

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