WHILE THERE have been concerns about the job security of Qantas staff as a result of the proposed takeover by Airline Partners Australia (APA), claims that Qantas engineers have been pressured to take shortcuts on safety have also arisen.
So far, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has failed in its campaign to secure a binding agreement with APA to ensure jobs are be retained if its $11 billion bid for the airline goes ahead.
The TWU is the largest union for Qantas workers, representing more than 15,000 employees across all areas of Qantas.
“We’ll be continuing our campaign for a legal guarantee from APA that protects the jobs, conditions, safety standards, entitlements and frequent flyer points of all Australians,” said Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the TWU.
“The bidder’s statement from Airline Partners Australia contains no legal guarantee that the jobs and entitlements of all Qantas employees and their families will be protected,” he said.
Director and the spokesman for APA, Bob Mansfield, confirmed in recent statements that the takeover would in no way alter the existing management strategy at Qantas.
“Airline Partners Australia agrees with Qantas senior management that the best way to secure jobs is to ensure that Qantas continues to grow and by providing cost-competitive services for passengers,” he said.
Mansfield claimed APA fully supported Qantas’commitment to continuing to provide a fair work environment for its employees, offering competitive conditions, jobs growth and career opportunities, and Qantas’ substantial training program and position as one of Australia’s largest employers of apprentices.
He also told the unions that Qantas planned to continue maintenance operations in Australia. “The acquisition will have no impact on employee entitlements, employee travel benefits or benefits being received by former employees.”
However, while the details of the recently released proposal included clear assurances that APA intends to maintain Qantas’ safety first approach and the continuation of maintenance operations in Australia, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers (ALAE) thought otherwise.
The ALAE said Qantas is continuing to secretly send aircraft for maintenance overseas while refusing to find work for willing Australian aircraft engineers.
As a result, Qantas maintenance engineers have called for a Federal Government investigation into safety standards within Qantas before any private equity sale is allowed to proceed.
An ALAE survey of 1,150 members found 76 per cent have been placed under commercial or management pressure over the past 12 months not to work strictly to maintenance procedures.
“The survey confirmed a worrying shift in the safety culture within Qantas and should be of concern to all commuters,” said Steve Purvinas, ALAE federal secretary.
The ALAE is appearing before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in Sydney seeking orders that Qantas find jobs for six remaining engineers left without work, following the decision to close Qantas’ Sydney heavy maintenance centre where more than 250 engineers were made redundant.
“Our concern is that Qantas management are softening the ground to offshore maintenance facilities by driving down existing standards to meet incentive-based bonus targets for managers,” said ALAE president Paul Cousins.
“The announcement that Qantas executives will receive bonuses of up to $300 million dollars from the APA consortium to meet new financial targets if the Qantas sale goes ahead will only add to that pressure.”
Geoff Dixon, CEO of Qantas, released a statement that said Qantas employees should not be too concerned with the imminent takeover by the Macquarie/Texas Pacific (APA) consortium.
Qantas failed to respond to Human Resourcesmagazine’s enquiries.