Qantas Grounds Entire Fleet in Labor Dispute
Surprise move in Australia strands passengers around the world
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2011 6:21 AM CDT
Qantas passenger jets at their terminal at Sydney Airport in a file photo.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

(Newser) – Be glad you're not booked on a Qantas flight. The Australian airline abruptly grounded its entire fleet today because of a nasty labor dispute, reports the BBC. The move came so suddenly that some planes turned around while taxiing on the runway, notes AP. Qantas is paying for people to rebook on other airlines, but the decision is still causing a huge headache for international travelers—it affects 108 planes in 22 countries—and, potentially, for Australia's economy.

"We're all set for the flight and settled in and the next thing—I'm stunned. We're getting back off the plane," says a British tourist now stranded in Sydney. Qantas pilots, baggage handlers, and engineers have been staging strikes to protest the airline's summer decision to cut about 1,000 jobs as part of a restructuring, explains the BBC. "We are locking out until the unions withdraw their extreme claim and reach agreement with us," said Qantas chief Alan Joyce. A rep for a pilots' union complains that Joyce has "gone mad," and the government is ticked that the airline gave it only three hours' notice.

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Oct 29, 2011 9:11 AM CDT
People should read this article by Dick Smith to get some perspective here. Dick Smith is a legend in Australia, He's a self made multi- millionaire businessman, aviator, adventurer, philanthropist and former chairman of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. "I ALWAYS fly Qantas when going overseas because I can afford it. But most of my friends don't, because they can't.I am amazed Qantas International is still in business. It's a credit to everyone involved. But it's obvious that unless CEO Alan Joyce is allowed to make huge changes, the whole airline will go broke. I can't understand why the unions don't get that. Our skies have been opened up to cheaper foreign carriers. Our leaders - and we, the people - have chosen lower globalised prices, which can only be sustained by lower globalised wages. If Qantas International doesn't get globalised wages it will go out of business. That said, we can pay decent Australian wages to pilots - if they work the same number of hours in the cockpit as their Aussie pilot mates at Emirates, Etihad and elsewhere. However, a greater percentage of cabin crew will have to be employed on global wages. And while those employed in Australia to maintain its domestic fleet should be OK, an increased proportion of the maintenance for the international flights will have to be done offshore. I have a number of aircraft and I have had to stop in Singapore and Dubai to have maintenance done. The maintenance has been just as good - because the supervisors are Australian or are British. The actual workers are from the Philippines and they get paid roughly half the wage available here. Consider this - about 30 per cent of an airline's costs are labour. Halving the labour costs means you can reduce your total costs by 15 per cent. A typical airline's profit margin is 5 per cent, so you can see the difference a 15 per cent reduction in costs can make. I do understand the unions seeing an unfairness in powerful groups such as the legal fraternity and politicians protecting their Australian wages and conditions while saying to typical workers, "Bad luck - you have to compete". If I was a Qantas worker, I would help management save every dollar and be as productive as possible - otherwise I'd know my job was doomed." And you can call me.......................Mr Joshua
Oct 29, 2011 7:57 AM CDT
______ ( ryhmes with muck ) those union bastards where they eat. Enough is enough with these domestic terrorist groups ( unions ) holding the, what's left of ' the free world ' hostage from here on out. Godspeed, Mr. Joyce, ........ the " real " world is behind you 120%.
Oct 29, 2011 7:33 AM CDT
Bust the unions, get rid of all union employees, and hire people who want to work. Now is the best time.