One day after Qantas raised its profit forecast for the second time in six weeks, the largest section of its workforce, flight attendance, have voted almost unanimously to take protected strike action unless a better pay deal is put on the table. No specific dates for such action have yet been set. The escalation of the pay dispute has occurred as a direct consequence of Qantas’ ASX announcement on November 23, of a AU$150 million upgrade to its profit forecast, to between AU$1.35 billion and AU$1.45 billion in underlying profit before tax, in the first half of its financial year. The carrier’s debt is now expected to fall to between AU$2.3 billion and AU$2.5 billion by December 31, about AU$900 million more than forecast.
This will be the first time flight attendants have taken strike action at Qantas, though the Flight Attendant Association’s Teri O’Toole has been keen to point out that every effort will be made to minimise passenger disruption. O’Toole has also been frustrated by a comment made by Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce’s that the bulk of Qantas employees receive AU$100,000 a year.
“Cabin crew are the airline’s biggest work group and receive AU$48,000 on average, just above the modern award,” O’Toole said, adding that “We are not asking for too much to be compensated for taking a two-year wage freeze while serving the airline during conditions which required us to learn each state’s ever-changing restrictions mid-air, risk our health daily and be consistently abused by passengers.” O’Toole also commented that “The crew and the public have had enough, but we are at breaking point. You can’t post a AU$150 million profit upgrade and expect crew to take a pay cut,” she said.
Qantas has disputed the union’s position that the pay offer was a pay cut when accounting for their two-year wage freeze. (£1.00 = AU$1.79 at time of publication)