The Guardian September 12, 2001


Qantas workers strike

Qantas engineering and maintenance staff from five unions have voted 
nationally to hold a 24-hour stoppage on September 12. The stoppage was 
confirmed by a vote of Sydney-based workers last week which completed a 
national voting process. The unions say that staff levels are too low and 
this issue is set against a background of increasing frustration about pay 
rates for airline maintenance workers.

The unions are the Australian Manufacturing Workers, the Electrical Trades, 
the Australian Workers, the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers 
and the Community and Public Sector Unions.

They are seeking a 15 percent pay rise over three years and the elimination 
of a two-tier pay structure. The unions point out that their members' wages 
have fallen behind average increases over the past decade and that this was 
made worse by a two tier wage system introduced by Qantas which sees new 
employees paid less than their longer term colleagues for doing the same 
work. 

National Secretary of the Australian Workers' Union, Bill Shorten, told the 
meeting held at Mascot Jet Base that internal company documents bore out 
union suspicions that staff levels are already too low.

"Qantas's own figures confirm that, at the middle of this year, its line 
and reserve maintenance was 150 workers under budget, Melbourne maintenance 
100 workers under and Sydney maintenance 320 under budget. We want those 
positions filled, and we'd expect the public to be asking why they haven't 
been."

Qantas last week issued a statement to staff claiming losses and reduced 
investment and growth have had a knock-on effect on staffing. But the 
unions cite Delta Airline maintenance workers in the US who recently won a 
12 percent pay increase and the shortage of 3,500 airline engineering staff 
in Britain and more than 10,000 in the US as a threat to Australia's 
aircraft maintenance services if wages are not increased and staff levels 
remain low.

"The airline unions here in Australia are wondering when Qantas will get 
the message  pay decent wages to stop the skills drain."

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