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Jetstar pilots to hold four-hour work stoppages on December 14 and 15

written by WOFA | December 6, 2019
Jetstar aircraft at Sydney Airport (Seth Jaworski)
Jetstar aircraft at Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

The Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) says Jetstar pilots plan to walk off the job for four hours on Saturday December 14 and Sunday December 15 amid ongoing negotiations with airline management over a new work contract.

The decision to hold a limited number of four-hour work stoppages, announced on the AFAP Facebook page on Friday evening, came after more than 90 per cent of eligible AFAP members voted in favour of taking protected industrial action in a ballot that closed at 1200 on Friday.

Jetstar said it had been informed by the AFAP that it planned a “range of industrial actions that could disrupt travel” between December 14 and December 20.

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The Qantas-owned low-cost carrier (LCC) said it would do everything it could to minimise disruptions to passengers and contact them as soon as it was known that their flight would be impacted by the pilots’ protected industrial action.

Also, customers booked to travel on those dates would be able to contact the airline to cancel their travel and request a full refund.

Earlier, AFAP executive director Simon Lutton said no work stoppages would be held over the the Christmas/New Year period.

“Jetstar pilots and the AFAP ensure that industrial action will not be taken over Christmas to New Year to protect this holiday period for the travelling public,” Lutton said in a statement on the AFAP Facebook page on Friday.

“We are hoping to resume discussions with the company to reach an agreement so that no further action needs to be taken after this period.”

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In November, the AFAP applied to Australia’s Fair Work Commission to conduct a ballot of its members on the question of whether to take protected industrial action. The ballot was conducted by Elections Australia.

Under protected industrial action, pilots could refuse to work outside their rostered hours or hold work stoppages of up to 24 hours, among other measures.

Jetstar’s most recent enterprise agreement with pilots expired in April 2019.

As part of negotiations over a new enterprise agreement, Jetstar had offered three per cent annual wage increases for its pilots.

The AFAP said in November it had been negotiating with Jetstar management for about 12 months and described the company as being unwilling to move on pilot pay and conditions such as rostering.

Jetstar group chief executive Gareth Evans said the union’s proposals represented a 15 per cent pay increase in the first year and would “put significant pressure on the low fares our customers rely on and force us to review our investment in new aircraft, new technology and new destinations”.

“We remain committed to reaching a new agreement to support the great work our pilots do every day, but not any cost,” Evans said in a statement.

Ground staff also vote to take protected industrial action

Separately, Australia’s Transport Workers Union (TWU) said on Friday 94 per cent of Jetstar baggage handlers and ground crews had voted to take protected industrial action.

The union said the vote would give about 250 workers in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne Avalon, Melbourne Tullamarine and Sydney the option of downing tools as part of negotiations over a new work contract.

It did not mean action would definitely go ahead.

Jetstar’s enterprise agreement with its ground staff expired in March 2019.

The TWU said it had been seeking changes to conditions such as more rest breaks, a guaranteed 12 hours between shifts and a guaranteed 30 hours of work a week.

The union had also sought a commitment to engaging Jetstar employees rather than untrained casual staff, annual wage increases of four per cent and better consultation with workers.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Jetstar had rejected the vast majority of the union’s proposals.

“The work that Jetstar baggage handlers and ground crew do is vital to the airline’s efficient and safe operations,” Kaine said in a statement on Friday.

“They lift thousands of kilograms during a shift, they operate heavy machinery around aircraft worth millions of dollars and they are responsible for the safety of passengers in ensuring loading weights are correct and equipment is secure.

“They deserve to have their efforts recognised and they deserve decent jobs with fair pay that allows them to support their families.”

Jetstar boss Gareth Evans said the airline had also offered three per cent pay rises to its ground crews.

Further, Evans said he expected any potential industrial action to have only a minimal impact on operations.

“We have strong contingency plans in place,” Evans said.

While Qantas does not break out the financial performance of its various Jetstar businesses across the Asia Pacific region, an analysis of the airline group’s 2018/19 full year results showed Jetstar’s domestic flying in Australia achieved about $294 million in underlying earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) in the 12 months to June 30 2019.

This was down 5.5 per cent from underlying EBIT of $311 million in the prior corresponding period.

Qantas said in a third quarter trading update in early November there would be an increased focus on costs in the second half of 2019/20 amid a slower revenue environment.

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