Roo image tarnished: Qantas, union ordered to 'sign off'

Qantas and the pilots' union have until February to sign off on a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) under a deadline imposed by the industrial watchdog.

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The Fair Work Commission on Thursday gave the airline and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) until February 12 to agree on a draft workplace determination and any areas of disagreement so it can be settled by the watchdog.
 
The parties have been warring over conditions they want in what was to be a four-year agreement, during a lengthy dispute in which Fair Work last year ordered the termination of industrial action by pilots who wanted job security provisions included.
 
At the height of the dispute in 2011 the airline grounded its entire fleet.
 
Qantas says it is in the public interest that the EBA enables rather than inhibits its ability to respond to competitive pressures and remain successful in a competitive global environment.
 
AIPA acting president Nathan Safe said the Fair Work determination on Thursday showed the strategy of the airline's chief executive Alan Joyce of "all-out industrial war" had been futile.
 
Even when the warring parties finally sign off on the EBA, it will only remain in force until it expires in December 2014. Then they will have to start again.
 
"We know that Qantas's PR department will be out there attempting to spin this as some sort of win for Alan Joyce and his militant strategy, but the fact is that Fair Work Australia has basically told everyone to go back to the drawing board and start again next year," Safe said.
 
He said the situation should never have got to this point and the industrial battle was entirely avoidable, with pilots open to negotiation.
 
"Yet thanks to the approach of this current management, everyone has been forced to punch themselves out, nobody got a result, and we're now scheduled to do it all again next year," he said.
 
"There have been no winners out of this debacle, and the biggest loser has been the flying kangaroo."
 
Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said Fair Work had endorsed the airline's right to manage its business.
 
"The dispute was always about Qantas retaining the right to manage its business and retaining the flexibility we need in a competitive industry like aviation," Wirth said.
 
"The union's claims that would have significantly impacted management prerogative, were rejected.
 
"Had the union been successful with its claims, including its so-called job security claims, it would have meant that over time Qantas would not be financially viable."
 
Wirth said Fair Work had accepted evidence of the financial position of the international operation and industry evidence of the competitive environment in which Qantas operated.
 
"Qantas also achieved a number of productivity improvements and flexibilities.
 
"We are pleased that our long-haul pilots have certainty, and will receive pay rises."

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