The 4 million-strong International Transport Workers' Federation has promised solid support for locked out Qantas workers globally and roundly criticised the airline's management.
In response to the shock move today by CEO Alan Joyce to ground the Qantas fleet, lock out its unionised workforce and strand passengers around the world, ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said that the airline's workers wanted to keep the flag flying - and that this goal was supported by workers globally.
Qantas had locked out its workers because they opposed changing the nature of the Australian flag carrier and drastically downgrading standards and working conditions, the ITF said. It was the workers who gave Qantas the real "Spirit of Australia", Cockroft insisted. "Defending standards and safety is what Qantas is all about - and it's what this dispute is about."
"Ordinary people in Australia and ITF affiliates around the world won't have the wool pulled over their eyes by a management that's driving through perilous changes and making workers and shareholders pay - while they take a good share of the profits for themselves," he added.
Cockroft said transport workers internationally would support their Australian colleagues because a downwards spiral in conditions would impact on the industry globally.
The London-based Federation's Australian President, Paddy Crumlin of the Maritime Union of Australia expressed outrage at Qantas's CEO's behaviour - made all the more extraordinary given the Qantas chief yesterday had his 71 per cent pay rise endorsed at the company's annual general meeting in Sydney, taking his annual pay to $5 million AUD. Not only were Qantas's 530 Au$ profits threatened by the lockout - but so was Australia's economy, he said.
"Alan Joyce is holding Australia to ransom. We all know his history at Ryanair and now he's trying to unfairly punish Qantas workers. He may see this as an investment to break the unions, impose new conditions and outsource operations to other countries in Asia without having to deal with its employees - but our national economy will be the real victim" Crumlin declared.
Tony Sheldon, National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, also an ITF affiliate, said today's action was designed to destroy Qantas as we know it.
"Make no mistake, Qantas has always wanted this dispute. They trained strike-breakers 9 months ago to do the work of TWU members. They have never wanted to resolve their employees' claims. Never. Our claims have been to gain job security for the next enterprise bargaining agreement and a negotiable pay rise."
779 unions representing over 4,668,950 transport workers in 155 countries are members of the ITF. It is one of several Global Union Federations allied with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).