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Fair Work Australia to settle Qantas dispute

Fair Work Australia will now decide and settle the disputes between Australian carrier Qantas and its workforce.

Alan Joyce, Qantas chief, yesterday said that settlement and decision on an outcome by Fair Work Australia in the airline’s disputes with pilots, licensed engineers and ground workers was the best move after 21 days of fruitless talks, since the airline was grounded.

The airline decided to proceed with arbitration on Monday, saying it could not reach any agreement with its pilots and the TWU. However, union officials wanted a second 21-day round of talks.

According to the Australian International Pilots Association, Qantas had sabotaged the talks even when an agreement was possible. But Mr Joyce claimed that all parties had agreed to go to arbitration.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association also agreed it would not be able to conclude any arrangement over job security and work practices.

Andrew Steward, Industrial relations expert, said a full bench of Fair Work Australia judges would take into next year to decide the disputes, giving the travellers some reassurance.

“It is reasonable to think that we’ll have a continuation of the past three weeks of enforced peace running right through the holiday period,” Prof Steward said.

“That binding arbitration process could take a number of months,” Mr Joyce said. “During that period, there can be no industrial action by any of the unions.”

Industrial action was banned 21 days ago when Fair Work Australia stepped in after Qantas grounded its entire fleet.