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Qantas, ALAEA in new fight

written by WOFA | June 15, 2012


CASA has approved maintenance on demand for domestic Qantas 737s and A330s. (Brenden Scott)

Fair Work Australia has upheld a Qantas application against the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) after the union instructed its members to continue with transit checks on some Qantas domestic aircraft.

Qantas says that CASA has approved the new ‘maintenance on demand’ regime for domestically operated Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A330s to start from June 13, which it says brings it in line with Virgin Australia and Jetstar. However, the ALAEA issued a notice to members on June 12 advising them to continue to conduct pre-flight maintenance checks on all turnarounds.

But following Qantas’s application to the industrial umpire, Fair Work issued binding orders requiring the union to cease the unprotected industrial action, with effect from 8pm June 14.

“We have invested significantly in new aircraft, which enables a more modern approach to servicing and maintenance,” said Qantas Domestic CEO Lyell Strambi.

“Modern aircraft have sophisticated systems which alert us to mechanical issues meaning engineers don’t need to check the aircraft before every single domestic flight.”

Mr Strambi added that the move, which would see trained pilots now carry out pre-flight inspections rather than an engineer would not compromise safety.


ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas said that the union has major concerns that the maintenance on demand system would result in a lower level of aviation safety, and claims that Qantas failed to seek the required stakeholder commitment as required by its safety management system.

“We advise that your participation would therefore be endorsing an illegal, defective and unsafe procedure,” Purvinas said in the notice to members.

Mr Strambi hit back at the union’s claims over stakeholder commitment. “There is nothing in our internal change management procedures which says unions get a veto over any change the business is implementing, or that we require union approval,” he said.

Qantas says that preflight engineering inspections are continuing on its Boeing 767 fleet and other aircraft that are flown internationally.


  • PeterL


    Purvinas wake up, Qantas has to compete in a competitive world or they will no longer exist and ALAEA members will no longer have ANY jobs.

    CASA exists to make sure safety is not compromised and it is enforced, not the ALAEA! The ALAEA has to wake up to the modern world of better designed and manufactured aircraft and leave the practises of 20+ years ago behind.

  • pez


    The union is right, that’s whay we have Jetstar and Virgin planes falling out of the sky every day. I know it’s their job to protect their members, but not at the cost of the members’ employer. Lunacy ‘strikes’ again.

  • Cooper


    Virgin and Jetstar planes falling out the sky? Pez get ur head checked. Last time I checked that hadn’t happened to either of them.

    It is a world standard. Pilots are trained to check for defects during their walk around as well as to a smaller degree ground staff eg baggage handlers.

    Steve Purvinas also needs to get his head checked. The unions and employees at Qantas clearly don’t like change and can’t deal with it. I don’t see Qantas going anywhere because of this reason. No wonder their shares keep crashing. Your in the airline industry. That involves ALOT of change

  • Cooper


    PS I like the sarcasm Pez haha

  • dan


    Unions, They are only there to keep themselves in a job. Let Qantas and Virgin compete equally. Unfortunantly because Qantas has been around for the last 90 yrs there seems to be a union representing every staff area of Qantas. The way I see it is if your good at your job you will have a job. Let the bludgers and the hangarounds go.

    Take a look at the construction industry today.

  • dog


    Cooper , you didn’t get it ! Ha Ha Ha

  • Dane


    Its a fair point Qantas is making. However, the self diagnostic systems installed in the B738 and A330-300, surely wouldn’t pick up on small surface or internal defects that groundcrews might. Sadly this is one of those things that only time will tell if it was the right decision to make.

  • KM


    And the pilots who boarded the ALOHA aircraft (Flight 243) should, surely, have noticed the gaping crack at the door, which was noticed by a boarding passenger. If an engineer (licenced, or otherwise, because there are non-licenced, but qualified aircraft maintenance personel not covered by the ALAEA) had been available at door closure, he or she would have, and the aircraft would never have left the ground. If the passenger who noticed it had been an aviation maintenance engineer, they would have spoken up before the flight left the ground too, as a matter of professional ethics.

    In that particular case, only one life would have been spared, but a spectacular accident would never have occured. One is left wondering about the value of a life??? There is more to a pre-flight inspection than just checking systems, which modern aircraft certainly can do, it is also about visually inspecting the aircraft as a whole system. Pilots already perform a pre-flight of sorts, but a qualified maintenance technician will be far more aware of likely maintenance issues than a pilot, as it is the technician’s primary role, not the pilots.

    I agree, Qantas needs to do something to stay competetive. Perhaps what they should do is reduce the exorbitant salary they are paying their executive staff. Alan Joyce recieved a 71% pay rise. His pay rise is probably close to half of what they are paying the technicians they wish to lay off.

    Alan Joyce was brought into Australia to start and manage a cut price airline (Jetstar), he should never have been allowed to tear the heart out of Qantas as he has. Qantas is an established airline with an excellent safety record ie they haven’t killed anyone in recent history, but it is only a matter of time, as they have come very close recently. They were very lucky with the A380 incident, and even luckier with the B747 oxygen incident.

    I agree, for those who have never worked in aviation, it may seem like the union is all about protecting jobs, but in this case the union is acutally trying to protect the flying public. Part of the reason for Australia’s excellent aviation safety record is we generally have excellent weather. We also have exctremely well qualified maintenance personnel.

    I have never worked at Qantas. I am employed in healthcare. Aviation is my hobbie. Just think, would you like it if the decision was made to allow surgeons to operate without an anaethetist and nursing staff first checking and confirming the identity of the patient? The surgery would still be safe, but every now and again the wrong procedure would happen to the wrong patient. It already does on occation, and it makes the news.

    Lets hope the next Qantas news story isn’t about an accident which costs a life. The ALAEA has shot itself in the foot recently by bleating about everything, and playing industry watchdog. That isn’t their role, and they have put the public off-side by appearing as doggish as they have. Had they used the correct industry channels they would not face such public vitriol.

    Yes, they have a vested interest in maintaining their jobs, but it is their signature on a piece of paper that keeps you safe every time you fly. Their real vested interest is keeping aircraft and the flying public safe. Increasingly complex aircraft need increasingly complicated systems to function and complex systems need to be monitored by aircraft systems. The basics still need to be monitored by humans. That is what line maintenance and pre-flight checks are all about.

    Perhaps Alan Joyce would like to sack all the pilots too? After all, on modern aircraft the Autopilot is far more capable that the human monitoring it. Until things go bad. That is where human ingenuity comes into its own and saves lives.

  • James


    I encourage you all to read Australian Aviation August 2011 (I think) article re demise of Ansett. One of the stories is union pressuring Ansett to have 3 pilots in 767s. The only airline in the world at the time that still had 3 pilots despite new advanced cockpits.

    Bye bye Ansett and soon it will be bye bye Qantas and the jobs that the union is “protecting” will ALL be gone.

    We’ll never learn. Very sad.

  • Nick


    I bet the ALAEA’s theme song is ‘, “lLiving In The Seventies”!!

    The desire by the myriad of Qantas unions to keep every member of each union in a job, even when the role is now superfluous, will result in the failure of their employer.

  • KM


    Ansett died as a direct result of airline deregulation, not union intrusion and union intrusion will not kill Qantas unless that is what management want. Greed will, the greed of both parties.

  • SB


    Flight 243 was 24 years ago, aircraft have improved just a little since then.

  • DB


    Ansett was hobbled by bad management decisions i.e. giving in to unions who thought they knew better. As a former engineer I can understand their discomfort at change but in reality engineers in Australia have to get with the program. They currently do jobs that other countries would laugh at. For example US airlines don’t use mechanics on push-back and haven’t for decades. I have worked at numerous airports in the US and been an Airport GM in Chicago for a major and there is simply no need. Often it is more about unions protecting obsolete job functions so the senior engineers can maintain their day shift privileges. Also using Aloha 243 as an example is spurious as we have nothing like those operational conditions here is Australia. Flying here is so benign compared to Europe or the US. Nothing like the traffic, weather or other opcons. Qantas mainline is in a bind. Overstaffed for its fleet size and nowhere near as efficient as it needs to be. Sadly the truth is-Slim down and spool up or die…

  • Cooper


    KM. you clearly are a qantas engineer looking after urself or you are extremely ignorant. You fail to mention that every other year at qantas Alan joyce took a pay cut. If aviation was a hobby you should have already known that

  • CM


    Unions are good its for the protection of the rights of workers except most of the bludgers are the active members the real workers have to leave the union in disbelief.

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