Two groups of Qantas cabin crew who operate domestic flights for the Australian flag carrier have asked Australia’s workplace arbitrator for permission to hold a strike ballot over claims that the airline is trying to outsource work and make flight attendants work dangerously long hours.
The Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) said on Wednesday that it had filed applications with the Fair Work Commission in the hope of securing the right to hold a vote for protected industrial action.
Teri O’Toole, the union’s federal secretary, claimed “already exhausted” cabin crew are being asked to “sacrifice safety to keep their jobs” as part of a new enterprise deal that Qantas management is proposing.
O’Toole says Qantas is using a long-awaited fleet renewal programme to force new contracts upon cabin crew. Over the next 20 years, new Airbus A220 and A320 series aircraft are to become the “backbone” of the Qantas domestic fleet, but cabin crew will be locked out from flying these aircraft unless they agree to Qantas’ proposed contract.
“The Qantas deals would extend duty lengths, while at the same time reducing rest provisions, all while not even guaranteeing work on the new aircraft,” the FAAA warned in a statement.
“Cabin crew have raised concerns that the proposal would significantly impair their fatigue management,” the statement continued.
Industrial action, if approved, could involve a full walkout or lesser action like cabin crew refusing to do work that is currently unpaid like reading safety briefs which could still cause severe delays and disruption across the Qantas network.
O’Toole says cabin crew are “calling out the dangers of this proposal for fatigue management and the devastating impact it can have for safety on aircraft.”
Under the plans, cabin crew could work for up to 12 hours and potentially 14 hours during disruption, while rest periods between shifts could drop to 10 hours during disruption.
“Qantas turned a deaf ear to crew’s safety concerns and instead issued an ultimatum. This is not good faith bargaining, it’s bullying.”
The airline is also attempting to renegotiate contracts with some of its international cabin crew. Qantas threatened to tear up an enterprise agreement unless cabin crew agreed to major changes to their work conditions.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.