Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Qantas takes another Industrial Relations Leap.

The Qantas dispute, which CEO Alan Joyce a few weeks ago threw into the lap of Fairwork Australia ,is now headed to arbitration. This could take a while and certainly will kick the ball well past the Christmas and New Year holiday period. Joyce's view is that it also delays any industrial action for however long the process takes.

It looks another high risk move but the CEO seems to enjoy those. He has to be a casino operator's nightmare. There's just a chance..........

Although arbitration is arbitration and intended to be thoroughly neutral, the fact is that the people involved in are largely Labour-connected in varying degrees, some directly. That has to raise some risks. Also the unions may not accept the outcome if they don't like it. On top of that, a couple of the Qantas unions are talking about challenging in the Supreme Court the original involvement of Fairwork.

While the whole arbitration process could take months and Joyce is resolutely saying that there can be no industrial action in the meantime, many would not bet on that.

The government does have an interest in the whole affair both because of Qantas' iconic national and international standing and because Prime Minister Gillard was the author of the legislation. There is also an independent Senator who has got a review of the Qantas Sale Act under way with the primary aim of preventing the airline from doing anything offshore or hiring cheaper labour. The government has no shareholding in Qantas but that does not prevent some MPs from feeling that they can run the company by playing around with the Act which was designed during the trade sale process to prevent foreign businesses like BA gaining control. It was certainly never meant to inhibit Qantas' ability to run its own business.

The story continues............

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