Qantas chief defends controversial Asia overhaul

Sydney: Qantas chief Alan Joyce vigorously defended the company’s Asia-focused restructuring plans today, saying they were vital to keeping the carrier relevant as a dispute with unions heated up.
The airline has faced a firestorm of criticism over the revamp that will see 1,000 jobs slashed as part of its new emphasis on Asia, aimed at staunching heavy losses from its international business.
“Under my leadership, Qantas will not withdraw into itself as our detractors would like us to do. Doing so would condemn Qantas to irrelevance and inevitable decline,” the Irish-born Joyce wrote in The Australian.
As part of the plan, Qantas will spend USD 9.5 billion on new planes and team up with Japan Airlines and Mitsubishi Corp. To launch a new low-cost domestic airline, Jetstar Japan.
It will also set up a joint-venture premium airline based in Asia and strengthen its code-share partnership with British Airways, which will carry more passengers between Qantas’s Asian destinations and Europe.
Furious unions have warned of strike action, accusing Qantas of outsourcing jobs while threatening the company’s iconic Australian image.
Tony Sheldon from the Transport Workers Union said ballots were now being taken on industrial action and he expected support from fellow unions in the United States, Britain and Southeast Asia.
“I’m confident that those countries will take actions in support of the actions that ourselves, our members, other unions decide to take over the coming struggle with Qantas,” he said.
Sheldon added that it was essential to “keep the brand alive, to save the company from itself and save decent paying jobs in this country”.
Joyce, who previously worked at Irish carrier Aer Lingus and the now-defunct Ansett Australia, accused the unions of”trashing the Qantas name”.
“They’re continuing to make false accusations about Qantas offshoring which is not true, about safety concerns about Qantas, which is not true, and they’re continuing to make false accusations across the board,” he said. (AFP)