ITF Takes Action Against Qantas in London

London was the focus for the future of labour relations at Qantas on Wednesday 16 November, as trade unionists gathered at the Australian High Commission.

Qantas passengers and staff have been left reeling by the airline's CEO's decision to shut down all operations on 29th October.

An independent tribunal then overturned the unprecedented move. With the 21 day period for management and unions to find a settlement ending soon the question is: what happens next?

The leaders of the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation), Australia's TWU (Transport Workers' Union, representing many Qantas staff); and Britain's Unite, which speaks for many staff in Qantas' Oneworld Alliance partner, British Airways, protested at Australia House against Qantas' actions.

The union leaders and Qantas workers were joined by representatives of aviation trade unions from around the world and by seafarer and docker union representatives showing their solidarity.

The protest was highly visual, with kangaroos (the Qantas logo) battling company CEO Alan Joyce, aviation workers in uniform, and banners and placards.

The London event was part of a wider international action day for Qantas workers.

TWU National President Jim McGiveron said: "Alan Joyce's recklessness has left the airline on a knife edge. We'll have to fight to undo the damage he's done and reclaim its good name.

"Thankfully we won't be totally alone. Other aviation workers understand the risks of outsourcing jobs and essential services across the seas, and are standing by us.

"We will resist these changes that threaten to wreck Qantas' hard-won reputation for service and safety."

ITF president (and MUA National Secretary) Paddy Crumlin said: "The Australian people and government massively rejected Qantas CEO Alan Joyce's failed lockout strategy. But the danger remains. Qantas jobs need to be protected, and that's what the Australian unions - and now their colleagues worldwide - are doing.

"We and our counterparts from around the world are gathering and demonstrating here, in Frankfurt, Tokyo, Manila, Jakarta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Auckland, Wellington, Buenos Aires and Santiago to put the case for a settlement that respects the needs, aspirations and strengths of Qantas workers.

"Alan Joyce has been playing the kind of hardball associated with an emerging style of management exemplified by Willy Walsh at British Airlines and Michael O'Leary at Ryanair. It has been decisively challenged by the Australian government and by aviation workers worldwide, and it will be defeated."

ITF general secretary David Cockroft said: "(Qantas CEO) Alan Joyce has been forced to back down this time but his plans to offshore jobs at the airline haven't been abandoned. While that danger remains unions remain on alert, and are proving their support for their Qantas colleagues.

"Trade unions are drawing a line here today, and warning the world that it is looking at the thin end of the wedge. If this kind of offshoring and downsizing is allowed to spread it could be the end of genuine national airlines and the beginning of airlines of inconvenience - low cost, union-cleansed, relocated and flagged out."

"The reason the seafarer and docker representatives are expressing their solidarity today is because they know better than anyone what flagging out means: the rise of flags of convenience, the shrinking of standards, the loss of jobs, the decline of conditions."

Meanwhile, running in tandem with the London events, trade unionists in Argentina, Chile, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand and the USA will tomorrow show their support for Qantas workers, using rallies and leafleting. More details of the plans for tomorrow and background to the dispute can be found at:

www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/support-qantas-families.cfm