Qantas Resumes Flights After Court Orders End to Shutdown
A dispute over wages and job security between unions and Qantas has been escalating since August when the airline announced its intention to focus on Asia and move away from the North Atlantic which had been the airline’s traditional market.
The dispute came to a dramatic standoff on Saturday when Qantas grounded its entire fleet, leaving more than 68,000 passengers stranded. But Fair Work Australia on Monday ordered an immediate end to all industrial action, ensuring flights would resume.
“It is ordered that all protected industrial action in relation to any or all of the proposed agreements [..] be terminated with immediate effect,” the Australian workplace relations tribunal said in its ruling. The order is binding for both Qantas Airways and the unions.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce welcomed the ruling. “This is a good outcome that will enable us to begin operating flights this afternoon on a limited schedule with the approval of the regulator, CASA,” he said. “Operations will resume progressively from this afternoon. Our focus is bringing our schedule back to normal as soon as possible. Safety will remain our first priority at all times.”
As a result of the court ruling, there will now be a period of 21 days during which no industrial action is allowed to take place and both parties can negotiate. If no agreement is reached during this period, binding arbitration will take place under the control of Fair Work Australia.
“The industrial process has now passed into the hands of the independent umpire. All parties will be treated equally and we will respect the decisions that are made,” Joyce said. “We look forward to a rapid recovery and to a period of stability enabling us to focus on our customers and our strategy for the airline.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Jeff Lawrence welcomed Joyce’s announcement that all flights will resume. “For two days, Qantas has held the Australian public to ransom. There were plenty of choices available to Qantas, but grounding its airlines was not necessary,” he said.
Lawrence added: “Tens of thousands of people have had their travel plans disrupted, and the economic loss caused by Mr Joyce’s single-handed action has been immense. The damage to Qantas’ and Australia’s reputation is immeasurable.”
The ACTU Secretary said the unions are fighting to keep good jobs in Australia. “Unions genuinely want to reach agreement, and we expect Qantas management to take a reasonable approach to negotiations, as opposed to its behavior until now,” he said.