Qantas Engineers to Hold Rolling Strikes

Australian flag carrier Qantas Airways faces rolling strikes by its engineers from next Monday as a pay dispute worsens, posing more headaches for an airline struggling with high fuel prices.

Qantas passenger jets parked at their terminal at Sydney Airport.
Mark Baker
Qantas passenger jets parked at their terminal at Sydney Airport.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) called on Thursday for stoppages in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Cairns over Qantas's refusal to grant a 5 percent wage rise for 1,500 engineers. The airline is offering 3 percent.

Qantas is at the sharp end of a problem facing many Australian firms: with inflation running at just over 4 percent, workers are demanding bigger pay rises at a time when consumer demand is cooling and employers are looking to cut costs.

"Our members are just going to continue to impress their claims on the airline by showing them that they actually are required on the job. We're hoping that Qantas comes to their senses," union federal secretary Steve Purvinas told local radio.

The strike follows a two-day stoppage last month that grounded 17 Qantas flights and forced the airline to delay several others.

At the same time, Qantas announced executive wage freezes, job cuts and route cancellations to Japan, saying its low-cost subsidiary, Jetstar, would no longer fly between north Queensland and the Japanese cities of Osaka and Nagoya, while weekly flights to Tokyo would be pared back from 14 to seven.

Qantas will also axe its Melbourne-Tokyo service from September, while Sydney-Tokyo flights will be cut from nine per week to seven.

Qantas spokesman Kevin Brown told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper the carrier hoped most flight schedules would be uninterrupted. "(But) there will be delays and disruptions to customers due to the escalations in the bans and the strikes the ALAEA have imposed on us," Brown said.

The airline is reportedly offering overseas and local strike-breakers A$100,000 ($94,000) to work as engineers.