The Guardian 26 October, 2005

Qantas uses IR laws to bully workers

Millionaire Qantas boss, Geoff Dixon, is threatening 3,000 Australian families with the dole queue in a bid to force down his company’s wage bill. The Business Council of Australia board member announced last week that 3,000 skilled maintenance positions would be shipped offshore if workers didn’t give up existing entitlements.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) National Secretary, Doug Cameron, accused the national carrier of "bullying and intimidation", just a fortnight out from the opening of enterprise bargaining negotiations.

"Howard’s legislation is designed to deny workers choice", Mr Cameron said.

"Employers will use the hand he is dealing them to stand over Australian families. Qantas is saying to its workforce that this legislation means they have no choice — accept clawbacks or your jobs go overseas. This is just the first company that will use these laws to threaten and bully Australians."

Dixon has been an outspoken advocate of John Howard’s IR regime, that seeks to replace collective bargaining with individual contracts; eliminate unfair dismissal rights; strip awards; and lower minimum conditions, including annual holiday entitlements.

Doug Cameron said the AMWU would discuss business and operational matters with Qantas", on their merits".

In doing that, he said, it would recognise the company remained one of the world’s most profitable airlines and it continued to pay "enormous" executive salaries, including boosting Dixon’s multi-million earn by more than 200 percent in three years.

"They are coming after our penalty rates, annual leave and conditions, we know that. There are legitimate ways to compete that we will explore them in good faith", Mr Cameron said. "But Australia can’t compete, on wages, with countries that pay 60 and 80 cents an hour."

Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) Federal Secretary, Tim Heywood, said Australian engineers had built and maintained the world’s best air safety standards, and Qantas has profited from that.

Mr Heywood said engineers and maintenance workers were shocked to learn of Qantas’ plans after their unions had initiated talks, a month ago, to discuss future work needs.

"The ALAEA is committed to working towards a solution and wishes to do this in co-operation with Qantas. However, we say to Qantas and, most importantly, to the Australian travelling public, that safety is not for sale", Mr Heywood stated.

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