Oct 292011
 

Qantas is suffering from self inflicted wounds.

Don’t get me wrong.  I used to be totally in love with Qantas.  It used to be a wonderful airline with highest standards of safety and service, and a very competent management team, and was the major – the dominant – airline in Australia, both domestically and internationally.

But that was then.  Now it is an airline that is struggling with way too many mechanical problems with its planes (in particular, the engines on its 747s), and rather than having a new fleet, its fleet is starting to look decidedly long in the tooth.  As for being the dominant airline, for the first time ever it seems that Australia is now viably supporting more than two domestic airlines, and Qantas’ share of international travel to and from Australia has dropped to a mere 18%.

But, most of all (and as reflected in these comments) its management is embarked on a peculiar journey to eviscerate Qantas’ essential Australian roots, seeking instead to try and beat the intent of the Australian legislation that requires Qantas to remain primarily Australian owned and operated by opening off-shore subsidiaries in other countries.

The main reason for this is a largely specious allegation that Qantas can’t afford to pay high wages to Australian staff.

For the last some time, Qantas has had ongoing issues with its labor unions, who of course are appalled to see management not only trying to reduce its Australian labor costs as far as possible, but who are also trying to off-shore as many jobs as possible.  In some cases, this off-shoring may truly be affecting the airline’s safety standards.

Some commentators argue that the problems with Qantas’ 747 engines are the result of Qantas no longer maintaining its own engines but out-sourcing (and off-shoring) that work, and some commentators have said that the earlier problem with the A380 engines could have been minimized if Qantas was doing its own maintenance on those engines too.  Whatever the reason, Qantas has had a string of ‘good luck’ engine failures – I say ‘good luck’ because they have generally been reasonably close to an airport where the plane can go and safely land.  One can only speculate what could happen if an engine failure occurred over the water, hours and thousands of miles from an alternate emergency airport.

For the last few weeks, Qantas has been trying to mount a public relations offensive against its unions, by blaming the unions and their various industrial actions for making the airline take some planes out of service.  But the unions says the planes which were taken out of service were not ones that its members were failing to maintain, but ones which Qantas planned to take out of service anyway to sell!

Qantas suddenly, last night, and with no prior warning, announced that it was halting all its operations, everywhere in the world, due to its labor problems.  No further flights will operate anywhere, for an unknown amount of time.

Is Qantas really forced to do this by its unions?  Most observers feel that is absolutely not the case.  Rather it seems that Qantas is trying to bully both its unions and the Australian government, trying to create ill informed public pressure to cause the government to force the unions to go back to work and obediently behave themselves.  Alas, early indications are that although Australia is governed by a slightly left of center (Democrat type) party at present, the government is caving in to Qantas’ bullying and will endeavor to help Qantas succeed at this high stakes gamble.

Most reasonable people should be beyond appalled at Qantas’ actions.  All airlines have as a paramount duty the obligation to take all actions possible to remain as fully operational as possible, no matter what weather, mechanical, or industrial problems they are encountering.  Other airlines (such as Qantas’ close partner airline, BA) go to great lengths to minimize the impacts of union strikes.

But Qantas, rather than minimizing the impacts of current labor problems (that are at least equally of their own making) has decided to magnify them and close down the entire airline’s passenger operations.

Here’s a suggestion to Qantas :  Stop paying your senior management team during your lockout.  Oh – did I mention that the airline’s CEO has just received a massive pay rise?

And a suggestion for the Australian government :  Don’t force the unions to do anything.  But consider re-nationalizing Qantas and give it a competent caring management team once more.

Qantas’ actions are inexcusable.

  15 Responses to “Urgent – Big Bully Qantas Cancels All Flights”

  1. I think your article is highly biased and that you may be a true union supporter. Ask all the passengers that have been deprived of flights recently because of wildcat strikes, go slows, workers refusing work what they think of the situation. When a company can no longer provide reliable service this is probably the best solution. Even the Labor government of the country will not step into the argument to prop up the flag carrier. It also begs the question who is running the airline, the unions or the people who are paid to.
    If the workers who are paid to work would do so there would be no situation.
    May I also remind you that QANTAS has the best safety record of any airline in the world!

    • Are you Seriously taking this position? With all the near misses how can you call Qantas the safest airline in the World?
      If the bloody management keep giving themselves salary increments why should the unions take the hit??

  2. Does anyone remember those old Qantas ads which ran in publications such as National Geographic showing a koala bear complaining about all of the people coming to Australia to ruin his vacations on Qantas? I think the koala bear will have some peace and quiet, at least for awhile.

  3. David, your pro-union bias is showing. Every story has at least two sides and you only covered one of them. If I want to hear redistribution of wealth propaganda, I’ll tune in to NPR or MSNBC. Please don’t stuff it in my inbox.

  4. Yes, re-nationalize the airlines and prices will surely come down. They can pay more to the workers and then, as they will not have enough revenue, increase the country’s debt. I do not know the Australian system, but in the US most government run operations are not very efficient, nor customer orientated.

  5. unions are a scourge on the working world.they earn much more in pay than the private sector workers.get rid of these losers.I try not to buy any anything american,i have no desire to support a union dbwhitehead

  6. While most developed (and even many developing) countries still have subsidized flag carriers, the fact is that we now live in a global economy. It doesn’t matter if anyone likes it or not, the genie is out of the bottle, and competition of all sorts is now on a global scale and most especially in the international aviation arena. Of course QF wants to, and needs to, grow in the burgeoning Asian market. And, just as obviously, workers supporting Asian operations will be based in Asia, not Australia. Given that much of QF’s profits (if they can get back to profitable international operations) will ultimately be repatriated to Australia and thus benefit their shareholders and economy, this is to be applauded. By the way, none of this is unique to QF; UA has been utilizing Asian based crews (at least flight attendants) for many of their Asian flights for years now. And, yes, they pay them differently than their US based crews and the US based FAs and their union hate it.

    • Actually Mark, the Asian based crews you reference employed by United work under the same contract as their American and European based counterparts. There is no salary differential with the United Asian based cabin crew.

    • Just for the record, Tim W is a United employee (based on his email address) so we should probably accept his statement as correct.

      Thanks, Tim.

  7. Perhaps the Qantas management could lead from the front with off-shoring – move the CEO & executive team to a lower cost country, & take the commesurate pay & conditions. True leadership?

  8. What we have here is a massive MANAGEMENT FAILURE, the like of which has not been seen since the recent Netflix debacle. Another CEO destroying their company for fun and personal profit.

    Solution: Fire the head schmuck and the rest of the incompetent management team and hire people who can speak with and negotiate with the unions. It is only difficult negotiating if you walk in with the “unions are bad- must crush them” attitude.

    I believe that David is not “Pro-union” but instead “Anti-bad management”, big difference. Re-read the article folks, the CEO and the management team screwed the pooch. Fire them all right now.

  9. As a retired airline employee who has been given the shaft by both my airline and my union I can tell you that management ineptitude and greed are the biggest culprits.

  10. “I believe that David is not “Pro-union” but instead “Anti-bad management”, big difference. Re-read the article folks, the CEO and the management team screwed the pooch. Fire them all right now.”

    This is so true. It amazes me how many people have a knee jerk reaction to side with management no matter how inept or outrageous their actions. No one who has followed David’s excellent blogs for any period of time would accuse him of being a flaming liberal!

    He is right on in his assessment of the outrageous behavior of Qantas management in trying (apparently with some success with their scorched earth actions) to break their union for no good reason.

  11. […] sent out a quick note about the surprise Qantas lockout/shutdown on Saturday.  Curiously, this attracted some very negative comments – no, not about Qantas, but rather […]

  12. Dave, I agree with those who realize the problem is not the Unions but management ineptitude and greed. This is true of U.S. airlines as well. I feel the same way about the past management of the U.S. auto industry. I don’t see you as pro-union; in fact, given your usual political opinions, quite the opposite.

    Living in Hong Kong, I also know for a fact that United flight attendants have the same pay scale as their U.S. based counterparts.

    I can’t imagine an airline management team that cared about their customers or even air-travel as an industry, just shutting down to make a point. Callous is the most kind description I can think of.

    I contrast with Cathay Pacific who when threatened with slow downs and or walk-outs, moves quickly to ameliorate inconvenience to the passengers, no matter the additional cost, including putting management in line positions.

    Sad, sad, sad!

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