It is normal for companies to try and pay employees as little as possible, and eradicate the higher paid for the lower paid.

That’s one of the facts of life in business.

But reading the new permanent part time pilot agreements on offer by Jetstar raises three obvious questions.

  1. Does the company understand that without ‘engaged’ pilots it risks its future?
  2. Why work for anyone that despises you, and
  3. Why would anyone put up with this in an airline industry in which more successful carriers like Singapore Airlines and Emirates, despite their claimed labor relations issues,  place a richer, longer term value on pilots, and continue to eat Qantas and Jetstar?

These are some of the acts of self harm new pilots commit if they accept the  Jetstar arrangement.

  • They are liable to dismissal for any reason in the first year, involving the double penalty of losing their job and having to repay around $40,000 in the costs of being trained to fly A320s.
  • They can be moved anywhere in the Jetstar franchises, including Singapore and New Zealand and not just between Jetstar’s Australian bases
  • Overseas resettlement at Jetstar’s discretion may involve being paid less than in Australia taking into account different industrial conditions

The contracts are permanent part-time deals, guaranteeing a minimum 600 hours flying duty a year which is around 300 hours less than pilots employed under the current Jetstar Australian EBA which expires in 2013.

In its defence, Jetstar says the pilots can expect to fly around 800 hours a year minimum and insists that the new part time agreements disadvantage no-one.

Jetstar also says it is seeking more flexible pilot arrangements to better match the seasonality of travel demand across its franchises and within Australia.

One of the Jetstar pilots who analysed the new contracts calculated that a flight attendant performing 1320 duty hours a year on the current cabin manager EBA would earn $63,204, while on 600 hours flight duty time a Jetstar cadet pilot would make $65,040 and a first officer $68,400.

Cabin attendants work hard for their money and also play a critical role in the safety of an aircraft in an emergency, however very few if any airlines in the world have such a low differential in the value they place on pilots and flight attendants.

It can be argued that these figures are further evidence that Jetstar management is so disengaged from the technical realities of airline operations that it sees pilots as just another labor unit of no exceptional worth.

In the big picture these part time contracts tell us more about the pitiful self loathing that the board and management of the Qantas Group has for the Australian business it keeps denigrating as unprofitable, unsustainable, and one gathers, all too difficult to run as a competitive enterprise under Australian rules.

With these sort of attitudes is it surprising that Qantas as a group is imploding, a process hastened by cross subsidising Jetstar to make its figures look acceptable without regard to a reality that much depends on taking jets and costs off the full service brand the company says it can’t afford to run.

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