Qantas Risks Delayed Flights Around Christmas After Staff Vote Yes to Strikes

By Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.
November 24, 2022 Updated: November 29, 2022

An industrial dispute between Qantas and the airline’s 1,200 flight attendants may cause delays around Christmas after 99 percent of the airline’s attendants voted in favour of a 24-hour strike if the carrier does not agree with a better deal.

The union has said it would try to limit the impact on Australian travellers by taking a measured approach to the strike, especially over the upcoming Christmas holiday peak.

It comes after Qantas announced it expected to make $150 million (US$99.6 million) more than it previously forecast for the current half-year thanks to strong travel demand.

Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) said despite the increased travel demand and profits, Qantas asked its loyal employees to take two-year wage freezes and sub-inflation pay rises while demanding “massive productivity gains.”

The new enterprise agreement offered by the carrier would see cabin crews have shifts extended from 9.45 hours to 12 hours or even 14 hours in the event of a disruption.

Meanwhile, rest periods between shifts could be down to 10 hours, which the FAAA warned would increase the risks of fatigue.

In October, the union lodged applications for two protected action ballots to the Fair Work Commission. Protected action ballots are secret ballots that allow employees to vote on whether or not they want to launch industrial action.

The industrial action would take the form of work stoppages of up to 24 hours in length, overtime bans, and withdrawal from boarding responsibilities, according to paperwork filed with the Fair Work Commission.

“Our members have languished under expired agreements for several years while having to bear the burden of stand-downs and the COVID-19 pandemic,” FAAA federal secretary Teri O’Toole told News Corp’s The Australian Business Network on Thursday.

“With this ballot outcome, flight attendants have declared enough is enough.”

A date for strikes or a deadline for a return offer has not been set.

Qantas Says Dispute Disappointing

A Qantas spokesperson called the move “very disappointing,” saying the negotiation for a new agreement is continuing.

“The proposal we’ve put forward includes three percent annual pay rises and access to more than $7,000 in bonus payments. Cabin crew are also in line to receive 1,000 shares worth around $6,000,” the spokesperson said.

“The shift length changes we’re asking for are the same that apply to crew working at other domestic airlines in Australia. The FAAA signed off these conditions as part of agreements for those airlines, but the union now claim they’re unreasonable.”

On Nov. 23, the national carrier said it expected an underlying pre-tax profit of between $1.35 billion to $1.45 billion for the six months to December 31, up from its October forecast of $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion.

Net debt is expected to fall to between $2.3 billion and $2.5 billion by year-end, which is $900 million better than what Qantas had predicted in its most recent update.

As the aviation industry continues its pandemic recovery, airports across Europe have also seen thousands of flights delayed and cancelled due to strikes.

AAP contributed to this report.

Nina Nguyen
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at nina.nguyen@epochtimes.com.au.