Aussies breathe sigh of relief as Qantas resumes flights

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Passengers wait inside the terminal to board their Qantas flights after checking in at Melbourne Airport on October 31, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Qantas flights returned to the skies on Monday, after a decision by Fair Work Australia to terminate the industrial action that grounded the airline from Saturday. Photo - Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The Australian flagship airline Qantas resumed its flights on Monday after an Australian court ordered permanent settlement between the industry and union members. The prolonged dispute had brought down all the flights to a grinding halt and affected more than 70, 000 travellers over the weekend.

A statement issued by the Aussie flag carrier 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 also added that it has received official permission from Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to resume all flights from Monday onwards. The truce was brokered by Fair Work Australia which talked to airline officials, trade unions and government advisers and helped settle the dispute. The settlement is seen as an essential boost to the Australian economy which is expecting a promising tourism season this year.

STRIKE EFFECT

Since August this year, unions and Qantas landed in a dispute when the national flag carrier announced restricting and outsourcing its services, which could have resulted to job losses. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said in an interview: This has been a challenging period for Qantas’ employees and customers.

He added: The industrial process has now been passed into the hands of independent umpire. All parties will be treated equally and will respect the decisions that are made.

Job security and outsourcing were the major issue which led to the grounding of Qantas fights. The month-long dispute has led to the loss of around A$70 million. Baggage handlers and pilots also joined the strike which stirred up the dispute. In addition to that, flight unions are also claiming for pay rises, which according to Qantas is unacceptable.

The Qantas strike also took place because of the airline industry which is struggling to cope with rising fuels charges and stiff competition from airlines such as Emirates and Singapore Airlines which prompted the Aussie flag carrier to draw restructuring plans that could lead to job losses.

I understand strikes happen, but to stop all flights without thinking about passengers, I dont agree with that. a stranded passenger said at Singapore’s Changi airport.

The sudden strike affected large business groups of the country. Many business groups warned Sunday they risk facing huge losses due to disruption in air services. Reg Hogward, CEO of the Chamber Minerals and Energy on Sunday said: This is an operational hassle that is not necessarily in 2011 and looks bad, not only to resource sector but the whole of Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said this dispute has brought disgrace to the nation because she had undertaken the task of hosting Commonwealth conference along with diplomats and other government officials. However, she praised Fair Work Australia Ruling and termed it as a win for passengers.

PERMANENT SOLUTION

Australia labour tribunal has, however, ordered Qantas to resume all their grounded flights by Monday. It has also banned all of Qantas’ trade union from taking industrial action in future.

The government also welcomed the decision and hoped the loss which the airline has faced since September will be recovered. PM Julia Gillard said: I believe Qantas took an extreme approach on Saturday. With very little notice to the government or passengers, it grounded planes. It did that in circumstances where it had other option.

For permanent solution, the tribunal decided to terminate protected industrial action in relation to each proposed enterprise agreement. The ruling also wants the unions to negotiate and give a nod to the agreement.

Qantas is the single largest airline in Australia and carries more than 70, 000 passengers daily on its fleet of 108 planes in 22 countries.

Sources: Reuters, Guardian, WSJ

(Written by Pratish Amin, Edited by Moign Khawaja)

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