Jetstar says it will cancel 90 flights on December 14 and 15 in response to protected industrial action by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP).
Pilots were due to hold a series of four-hour work stoppages over the two-day period, having voted in favour of walking off the job as part of negotiations over a new work contract in a recent ballot of eligible AFAP members.
Jetstar said in a statement on Wednesday it would cancel 44 flights on Saturday, while 46 flights would be cancelled on Sunday. The cancellations represented about 12 per cent of Jetstar’s roughly 370 daily flights.
The Qantas-owned airline said it had started contacting those affected by the cancellations, adding that it expected about 95 per cent of customers to travel on the same day as their original service.
In addition to putting affected passengers on alternate flights, Jetstar has also offered all customers booked to travel between December 13 and December 20 the option of cancelling their ticket and obtaining a full refund.
Jetstar group chief executive Gareth Evans said staff had “worked around the clock to develop a proactive contingency plan”.
“To minimise the impact on customers by the four-hour stop work periods, we are consolidating some services, up-gauging aircraft, re-timing flights and Qantas and QantasLink will operate a number of supplementary services,” Evans said on Tuesday.
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.
Some 90 per cent of eligible AFAP members supported 15 forms of industrial action, such as the refusal to work outside rostered hours, the refusal to work on days off, to not answer calls from the crewing department when not on duty or refusing to extend flying duties beyond existing limits.
The AFAP said it would provide Jetstar with five working days notice for any planned industrial action.
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.
“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,” AFAP executive director Simon Lutton said in a statement on Monday.
“The AFAP is still committed to reaching an agreement and is disappointed that we have had to take this action.”
Evans said the union’s proposals represented a 15 per cent pay increase in the first year and would put significant pressure on Jetstar’s low fares. It would also force the LCC to review its investment in new aircraft, new technology and new destinations, he said.
“We remain committed to reaching a new agreement to support the great work our people do every day, but not any cost,” Evans said. “Strong arm action from the AFAP will not change our position on this.”
“We say to the union: come to the table with a reasonable offer that is fair, and which also ensures the future of low fares travel for Australians.”
The union has disputed the 15 per cent figure. Lutton told Airline Ratings the airline had inaccurately calculated the cost of non-salary claims and the concessions it had put forward.
The AFAP has said previously no industrial action would not be taken over Christmas/New Year period.
Baggage handlers and ground crews also plan protected industrial action
Separately, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) said about 250 Jetstar staff working as baggage handlers and ground crew would take protected industrial action Friday, December 13.
A series of two-hour work stoppages have been planned at Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne Avalon, Melbourne Tullamarine and Sydney, the TWU said on Tuesday. Some 94 per cent of eligible members had voted in favour taking protected industrial action.
Jetstar’s enterprise agreement with its ground staff expired in March 2019.
The TWU has said previously said was seeking changes to conditions such as more rest breaks, a guaranteed 12-hour break between shifts and a guaranteed 30 hours of work a week under a new work contract.
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.
“Ground crew are given as few as 20 hours guaranteed a week with rates so low that their families are forced to struggle. They are taking a united stand against poverty wages,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said in a statement.
“These workers stuck with the company during the tough times when Jetstar and Qantas insisted on pay freezes. Now they rightly expect to be treated fairly. The company cannot continue to make money off the backs of its workers.”
Jetstar had said previously it expected any potential industrial action by ground crew and baggage handlers to have only a minimal impact on operations.
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 the LCC’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 across the airline group in the second half of 2019/20 amid a slower revenue environment.