Qantas passengers face probable disruptions to flights after the airline’s 1600 licensed aircraft engineers announced today that they would begin strike action this week.
A one-hour strike is planned between 8am and 9am on Friday.
“We will wind it up slowly,” said Steve Purvinas, national secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.
Advertisement: Story continues below Last-ditch talks this morning between Qantas management and the union representing the aircraft engineers before a Fair Work Australia judge failed to resolve the differences.
Mr Purvinas said in a statement today that negotiations had “hit a brick wall” and its members intended to begin protected industrial action later this week.
Last month the engineers voted in favour of industrial action if pay talks stalled. However, they need to give three days’ notice before they can take legally protected action.
“Our number one concern throughout these negotiations has been job security,” Mr Purvinas said. “Our wage claim is modest – less than inflation in fact. What interests us more is job security, and for aircraft engineers that means simply being able to carry out aircraft maintenance in Australia.”
The aircraft engineers wield significant influence on the airline relative to their numbers, and the industrial action is likely to result in significant disruptions to Qantas’s network.
A stand-off between management and engineers in 2008 – which lasted 10 weeks – caused substantial damage to the airline’s reputation as flights were delayed and cancelled.
Qantas said it was ‘‘extremely disappointed’’ at the engineers’ decision to walk off the job on Friday and accused the union of ‘‘undertaking a campaign to attack’’ its brand.
The airline’s operations chief, Lyell Strambi, said passengers could experience minor delays on Friday but it had contingency plans in place to minimise disruptions.
The meeting before a Fair Work judge today was effectively another forum for the negotiations between the airline and the engineers.
Fair Work does not have the power to arbitrate on the dispute.
The parties will return to Fair Work Australia on Wednesday morning.
Qantas also remains locked in negotiations with 1700 long-haul pilots over a new employment agreement. The pilots want to secure their positions as the company becomes more reliant on its low-cost offshoot, Jetstar.