SYDNEY, May 9 – Engineers at Australia\’s Qantas will stop work for one hour on Friday after negotiations over pay and conditions broke down, the workers\’ union and the airline said.
The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) said talks had "hit a brick wall" and the work stoppage was the first in a series of possible actions that are set to include 48-hour work stoppages.
"Qantas (engineers) are sick of the systematic dismantling of our industry by Qantas management," union secretary Steve Purvinas told reporters on Monday.
Qantas said it was "extremely disappointed" that the union had halted talks and announced the industrial action, which will involve members stopping work from 8:00am in all Australian ports on Friday, May 13.
But the airline said only minor delays were expected.
"Our priority is to ensure that the Australian travelling public is not disrupted and we are putting contingencies in place to minimise the impact of this action," operations executive Lyell Strambi said.
Qantas has been in talks with ALAEA, which has 1,600 members at the airline, and the Australian and International Pilots Association for months over pay and workplace conditions.
The airline\’s chief executive Alan Joyce has previously said he wanted to "work with all of our employees to reach new agreements", adding that the company was committed to finding common ground with the unions.
Qantas, which said it was ready to resume negotiations at any time, said the union\’s claim equated to an increase in wages of between 5-6 percent each year for three years. But the union says its claim is modest and less than inflation, which hit 1.6 percent over the March quarter.
"What interests us more is job security, and for aircraft engineers that means simply being able to carry out aircraft maintenance in Australia," Purvinas said in a statement.
But Strambi accused the union of being intent on taking industrial action rather than genuinely negotiating for a new agreement for its members.
"We are willing to negotiate on reasonable pay and conditions but we will not give in to their demands which remove flexibility the airline needs to respond to changing operating conditions," Strambi said.