Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Qantas pilots move to overturn ban on industrial action

The long-haul pilots' union has today launched a legal challenge to the workplace umpire's termination of its long-running battle with Qantas.

In a decision that threatens to reignite the bitter battle that led to the grounding of Qantas's fleet for two days, the pilots' union today filed proceedings in the Federal Court in Sydney, seeking a review of Fair Work Australia's decision last week to terminate its protected industrial action.

The Australian and International Pilots' Association had been waiting for further talks today with Qantas negotiators in front of the workplace umpire before deciding whether to challenge. It had said that Qantas had made "semi-conciliatory noises" in negotiations on Tuesday.

But the union said today that it had launched legal action because the negotiations before Fair Work were "moving very slowly" and it believed that Qantas's decision to lock out staff involved in the industrial action was "disproportionate" to its campaign, which included wearing non-uniform ties.

"The appeal is a backstop to have the decision reviewed if the negotiations move [too] slowly," the union's vice-president, Richard Woodward, said today.

After Qantas made its shock announcement on October 29 that it would lock out workers involved in industrial action, the government intervened by seeking a termination of the airline's dispute with three unions, including the pilots' association. The airline and the unions have been given 21 days to settle their differences or face binding arbitration.

The Transport Workers Union, which represents baggage handlers and other ground crew, has also threatened to challenge Fair Work Australia's decision to terminate its dispute with Qantas. However, the TWU said today that a date had not been set to decide whether to appeal.

"Legal options remain open for as long as Qantas pursues a belligerent stance towards the job security of employees who have kept Qantas profitable for over 20 years," it said in a statement.

The pilots' union received advice from two senior barristers this week that it had grounds to challenge Fair Work's decision to terminate the industrial action because Qantas's lock-out of its members was disproportionate to their campaign. It had involved wearing non-uniform red ties and making announcements to passengers on planes, alerting them to their cause.

The key sticking point between the two sides remains the pilots' demand for staff working on Qantas subsidiaries overseas to receive the same pay and conditions as their Australian counterparts. They have been given 21 days to reach a settlement or face binding arbitration.

http://www.smh.com.au

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