Qantas resumed its flights on Monday, following a ruling from Fair Work Australia which ordered a permanent end to the industrial dispute between the airline’s management and the union members. (photo, from lemonde.fr)
The tribunal said : “we have decided to terminate protected industrial action in relation to each of the proposed enterprise agreements immediately”.
On Saturday, in an unprecedented move Qantas, the world’s 10th-largest airline, grounded its entire fleet, affecting nearly 70,000 travellers.
Relations between the unions and Qantas management deteriorated since August, when the airline announced plans for restructuring and moving some operations to Asia.
Since then a series of costly strikes have forced the airline to reduce and reschedule flights for weeks because of the dispute, which Qantas says is costing Aus$15m a week.
Fair Work Australia, the national industrial tribunal which has the power to suspend or terminate industrial action, heard evidence from Qantas, unions and the government before issuing its ruling.
The tribunal said its ruling had also taken into account its concern for the vulnerability of the tourism industry.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) gave permission to Qantas to resume flights.
‘A rapid recovery’
In a statement the airline said : “Qantas sincerely regrets the impact on customers of industrial action over recent months and looks forward to a rapid recovery and period of stability.”
“Qantas expects to restore its schedule to normal within 24 to 48 hours.”
According to the tribunal’s ruling, unions have to return to the negotiating table and come to an agreement within 21 days, otherwise they will face binding arbitration.
“I don’t think any side should be declaring victory,” Qantas’ chief executive Alan Joyce said. “The unions can’t take any more action. Qantas can’t take any more action – that’s gone – so our aircraft go back in the air.”
The decision was welcomed by the Australian government.
“We are pleased that after 24 hours of turmoil that common sense will be restored to the aviation and tourism sectors of Australia,” said Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten.
While the unions wanted a suspension for up to 120 days in order to allow talks, Qantas had urged the tribunal to terminate all industrial action to resume flights.