Saturday 29 October 2011

Julia Gillard will have to use all of her negotiating skill

Prime Minister moves to end Qantas grounding

291011Julia Gillard
Prime Minister Julia Gillard defends the rare decision to make application to Fair Work Australia to intervene in the dispute Picture: Justin Benson-Cooper Source: The Sunday Times

Julia Gillard has declared she is proud of her industrial relations laws after the government dramatically intervened in the Qantas dispute.
In a dramatic move, after the company grounded all flights and proceeding with plans to lock out its workforce from Monday, the government tonight sought an order from Fair Work Australia. It comes after the airline's chief executive Alan Joyce announced this afternoon it had grounded its planes in a bid to bring the long-running dispute to a head. The Qantas move sparked chaos in the nation's airports and tourism industry warnings it would disrupt tourism-related events, including Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.

As Ms Gillard tonight rejected Tony Abbott's accusation she should have acted earlier, she defended her Fair Work Act, which replaced the previous Howard Government's controversial WorkChoices laws. Howard  minister Peter Reith has attacked Tony Abbott for suggesting that Julia Gillard intervene in the worsening Qantas dispute. “Looking at the Fair Work Act and the tests for having Fair Work Australia deal with the dispute I do not believe we reached the appropriate point in its dispute for Fair Work Australia to intervene until we saw the escalation of the dispute today,” Ms Gillard said.“I take absolute responsibility for the Fair Work Act. I am incredibly proud of it. It introduced fairness into Australian workplaces.”

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce's announcement of the planned lock-out came out of the blue early this afternoon, promoting Transport Minister Anthony Albanese to accuse the businessman of having acted in bad faith.

Mr Joyce said unions were attempting to  destroy the Qantas brand and that he had been forced to act. He  said the dispute was costing the company $15 million a week and that unions were becoming more hard-line, leading to his decisions to lock out all members of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Union (ALAEA), the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and the Australian and International Pilots Union (AIPA) from Monday.“Yesterday two unions declared their intention to escalate industrial action further and over an extended period,” Mr Joyce said.“As one said earlier they want 'to bake Qantas slowly'.” “The pilots’ union has also said they are considering escalating their industrial campaign. They talk about job security, but the unions are on a path that would diminish the job security of their own members.”

The move meant that from 5pm tonight there have been  no further Qantas domestic departures or international departures anywhere in the world. Jetstar flights, QantasLink flights and Qantas flights across the Tasman operated by Jetconnect will continue to operate as will Express Freighters Australia and Atlas Freighters. The Victorian Government also commenced legal action under the Fair Work Act, with Premier Ted Baillieu warning of  “severe economic consequences” for his state. “Along with the inconvenience and disruption to many thousands of passengers travelling across Australia and around the world, the dispute  is causing significant economic harm to Victoria especially its tourism and hospitality industries,” Mr Baillieu said.“The economic damage at the time of the Spring Racing Carnival, one of  Australia’s biggest annual sporting festivals, is significant.“Increased disruption will impact profoundly on incoming visits for the Melbourne Cup and Spring Carnival events.”

As Fair Work Australia began prepared fro the hearing Melbourne, the Opposition Leader said Ms Gillard's handling of the issue had highlighted her incompetence. “This is a crisis which could have been avoided but the government has been procrastinating for weeks about this and now it's urgent that it be solved immediately,” Mr Abbott said. “Qantas is an essential service. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that essential services operate and that brand Australia is not damaged. “This is, in the end, a test of competence for the government. It's a test of who is really in charge, the Prime Minister or the faceless men.”

Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott would say anything to promote a return to WorkChoices. But she agreed she was concerned about the effects of the dispute, noting that many Australians had been inconvenienced and that 15 commonwealth heads of state attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth were booked to go home on Qantas flights. She said the government was working on contingency plans but would not say whether she was considering using charters or military aircraft.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese accused Qantas of a breach of faith, noting Mr Joyce had advised the government of its intentions at only 2pm this afternoon. “This is quite extraordinary action for Qantas management to take,” Mr Albanese said. “I find it particularly extraordinary that one day after their Annual General Meeting at which they’re accountable to all their shareholders they would make this decision.
“I’m extremely disappointed.  What’s more, I indicated very clearly to Mr Joyce that I was disturbed by the fact that we’ve had a number of discussions and at no stage has Mr Joyce indicated to me that this was an action under consideration.”

Mr Albanese said Qantas would need to justify  its actions, inviting people to make their own judgement on whether the decision had been planned well before yesterday.“But I think it is certainly a breach of faith with the Government, the fact that there was no advance notice of this action being taken by Qantas and I indicated that very clearly to Mr Joyce this afternoon.”

Greens Leader Bob Brown sided with the unions, demanding Ms Gillard press Qantas management over the strike. “This lock out is also a sell out of the spirit of Australia,” Senator Brown said today. “It is a multi-millionaire’s lock out of responsible decent pilots, crew and other staff whose work gives Australia the world’s best airline. “This lock out is about exporting Qantas to a world of lower cost, lower services values and lower safety.  The Government should stand up to Qantas’ selfish top brass,” Senator Brown said.
But Australian Hotels Association chief executive Des Crowe said warned of devastating effects on the tourism industry at one it its busiest times.

“The provisions for Government intervention under the Fair Work Act exist to deal for the very purpose of dealing with a crisis such as this,” Mr Crowe said “The Government simply must act and it must do so immediately. “Already this afternoon, tens of thousands of travellers have had their Spring Carnival travel plans thrown into chaos.  The hotels and other businesses relying on this peak tourism period will now miss out as a result.” Industrial Relations Minister Chris Evans said  section 424 of the Fair Work Act allowed Fair Work Australia to issue   an order for termination of all industrial action penning an urgent hearing.
If granted the parties will have at least 21 days to negotiate a settlement. “No industrial action can take place during this period,” Senator Evans said.

                     _______________________    |    _____________________________

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.