Oct 30, 2011

More intermission entertainment, Joyce says passengers now have ‘certainty’

A short while ago Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, explained to Alan Kohler on the ABC's Inside Business program how the grounding decision had been intended to make the dissenting unio

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

A short while ago Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, explained to Alan Kohler on the ABC’s Inside Business program how the grounding decision had been intended to make the dissenting unions feel the same pain as the company and had brought ‘certainty’ to its passengers.

Joyce denied that Qantas brought on its pre-planned action to force the government to refer the matter to Fair Work Australia, which resumes last night’s emergency hearing at 2 pm.

“It was the only way we could make the unions sit down with us,” Joyce said. “Up until then [the grounding] the pain was all on one side, and now the pain will be on both sides.”

But the pain appears to be more widespread than that. Asked about the 80,000 or more Qantas customers who have also been locked out of the airline throughout Australia and world wide,  Joyce said this was preferable to their experiencing dislocation for the next year.

He said the grounding would bring ‘certainty’ to Qantas customers, and said the airlines business travellers had strongly endorsed its taking firm action, contradicting his statement yesterday that ‘valuable business traveller bookings’ on east coast routes had fallen 25% in recent weeks.

These are odd terms to use from the perspective of the 80,000 passengers Qantas stranded with no prior warning yesterday given that their world is that of today, and now, and not that of impersonal accounting constructs.

The Transport Minister Anthony Albanese noted yesterday that he found it extraordinary that the Australian government was only given three hours notice of the grounding of the national flag carrier.

Joyce said that as a consequence of the government’s decision to ask Fair Work Australia to intervene in the three union disputes, the company had applied last night for FWA to order a termination of all industrial action, which would cause a 21 day period for negotiations to take place at the end of which the tribunal could make a binding arbitration in the absence of an agreed outcome between the parties.

But he repeated that Qantas had not sought such intervention, and had always intended to lockout the employees involved to bring ‘certainty’ to its customers, a word that might seem to have a different meaning to those it has stranded.

In the media campaigning that the unions and company have undertaken this morning, Richard Woodward the vice president of the Qantas pilot union said he believed Qantas had broken the law in also locking out its short haul domestic pilots, who are not involved in industrial action.

“Those pilots are attached to what is supposed to be the most profitable part of the Qantas business” he said.  “Their current agreement with Qantas is not up for renegotiation until next year.

“This is not just illegal. It is insane.”


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32 thoughts on “More intermission entertainment, Joyce says passengers now have ‘certainty’

  1. Andybob

    Certainty they wont fly with Qantas again ?

  2. GeeWizz

    The unions have brought this about and must take full responsibility.

    Times have changed but this union heavies want to pretend it’s still the 1960’s.

    Time to bring out the union busters and rid the airline industry of these trouble makers. You either want a job or you don’t want a job it’s as simple as that.

  3. Dave Donohue

    “certainty” really is an odd word to use. It’s akin to shooting the patients in a hospital to provide certainty abotu their prognosis – or be extension euthenasing school children so they have certainty about how long they will live.

    Somewhere inside me, the idea that this has been Ireland’s first successful terrorist attack on Australia, is growing in strength.

  4. drpixie

    Must be well and truly time that we protect travelers, shareholders, Australia, and position of “national flag carrier” … one simple solution – compulsory acquisition of the company at Monday mornings share price. Then sack the current board and CEO, and run the whole thing like an airline.

    We (Australia) privatised the company at $2.50 (or thereabouts) … buy back (the currently steaming wreck) at $1.50 (or less by Monday AM) – it’s a bargain.

  5. fractious

    Qantas regrets any inconvenience caused, meanwhile here is some light music:



  6. Aidan Stanger

    GeeWizz – are you saying that organized labour should have no rights whatsoever? Because that’s what it sounds like to me. I was on the side of Qantas management at the start of this dispute, but their stupidity has changed my opinion, and the lockout is absolute proof that they, not the unions, are the ones being unreasonable.

    Times have indeed changed, so there are no union heavies. But more importantly, this is Australia – and for a century we’ve had laws to limit the disruption of strikes. Alan Joyce seems to have failed to notice the difference between here and the land he’s from.

  7. GeeWizz

    [“Then sack the current board and CEO, and run the whole thing like an airline.”]


    This government couldn’t run a lemonade stand, let alone an airline.

    QANTAS is trying to run an international business with international competitors at Australian union prices… and guess what? It’s not working out for them. Sack all Union workers and rehire those who want to work on new contracts, with gurantee of employment.

  8. scot mcphee

    I say sack GeeWhiz, he sounds like a troublemaker, and with that displayed ideology toward the workforce, he or she can’t have any complaints about it.

  9. GeeWizz

    [“GeeWizz – are you saying that organized labour should have no rights whatsoever? Because that’s what it sounds like to me”]

    My view is pay should be based on performance, not on whether you are in a union or not.

    In this case the Airline industry is one of the most competitive industries in the world. Many airlines go tits up overnight. It’s a common occurance. So the question now is do we want a national airline and do these QANTAS people want jobs? Because if this company goes tits up we won’t have either.

  10. Skylight


    You surely are living in a dream world mate. Pay based on performance? Do you realise these employees work in a highly-regulated and safety-critical environment? Should they receive a bonus for every week no regulations are broken?

    If anyone needs their pay strongly linked to KPIs, it’s Joyce. Under his leadership, the stock has tanked; the workforce are disengaged; the travelling public have lost their trust in Qantas; the government are angry with them, and competitors are being gifted market-share. I have no doubt Joyce feels proud of ‘sticking it to the union’, and his plans to move Qantas off-shore can proceed apace, even as the company falls apart.

    You earlier commented that unions should take “full responsibility” for what has happened. Granted, the unions must take some responsibility, but you are possibly the only person delusional enough to believe Qantas management have done nothing to escalate this mess. I’d be fascinated to hear whether you agree with all network & fleet decisions they have made, and if you think their treatment of their own employees in the media has been measured and respectful.

  11. Alex Mandl

    Gee Whiz,
    I’ve worked in enough corporates to have seen over and over again, that most of us, conservative little buggers that we are, do not get aggressive in the workplace even in the face of outrageously bad, unfair, discriminatory and outright illegal trashing of workers’ basic rights.
    As a corporate manager, I’ve also worked with some really great union reps who have supported management in getting rid of inept, incompetent, lazy and dishonest workers.
    Most people on both sides are reasonable and innately conservative. We want to get on with our lives, not get embroiled in conflict.
    However, when management bends you over the proverbial desk in an individual contract, supported by a corporate HR team, a brace of lawyers, a willingness to go to court, and far more money to throw at it than you will ever have, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters? No, if you don’t have a union or a professional association, or money to go to court, you are going to take it in the … .
    You need a lesson in the reality of why we have an industrial relations framework, my friend.
    Oh, and I didn’t vote Labor.

  12. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Is Alan Joyce channelling his namesake James? Obviously a $2M raise will buy you some wicked good acid.

  13. moorlands

    Most of these comments attack Joyce, why not have a go at Dixon he ran the airline into the ground by not investing in new equipment, which of course kept the profits up, ( and of course CEO’s bonus’s are linked to profits).
    To those dreaming of returning to the nationalized days, Qantas had to be “refinanced ” by the taxpayer every year, but the pilots, engineers, and managerial staff refuse to give up those halcyon days and the excessive conditions they were on, while they all are of the same opinion about theTWU as being a “waste of space” that Qantas would be well rid of, a large proportion of my workmates are quite happy on the wages and conditions we have, we don’t want more.

  14. Eric Vigo

    Yes, everyone who thinks that Qantas has a right to move off-shore – no not a right, but an essential action, to save labour costs and to cut back maintenance (high labour costs), and also to fight these ‘union thugs’ who want to destroy Qantas ….; but at the same time, wants to keep the Australian Way of Life going exactly as it does, would do best to consider the term ‘cognitive dissonance’.

    Yes, business costs are high in Australia. Low elsewhere. Why is that? Because one reason is our hourly rate of pay that most Australians would EXPECT is important for survival is, what, $19/hr at least?
    Remember, that is demanded and expected here in Australia. Like knowing you will breathe enough oxygen.

    I guess this is one of those ‘the world is as it is, always will be’ Australian attitudes. Which is kinda funny, as the world shifts and changes so quickly, and Australia seems to not be on that train.

    AFAIK, for centuries and onwards, business reflexes to the lowest business costs (incl wages) + the highest productivity from said workers. When that happens, $6/hr is probably on the cards. While not decreasing retail prices. That washing machine still costs $600, but you earn $6/hr. Your mortgage still costs the same. That’s not changing.

    So all we see outside our window in society is the result of higher wages (which means higher business costs). We expect it. Thanks to the unions. But also unions have helped, from my working factory experience, to ingrain conservatism in the workplace. No change.

    So, get rid of ‘union thugs’, but don’t expect The Australian Way of Life to exist as it does now. Or, don’t think differently. I doubt you will anyway. But ranting about how Joyce has had ‘no choice’ and must confront ‘the union thugs’ is helpful in not preparing for the ultimate consequence of that type of thinking.

    Thank god I earn $21/hr doing a mindless job on a factory floor. In the USA, I’d be lucky to get $12/hr. I’d say more like $9/hr. I’m enjoying this privilege while it lasts.

    Sorry for the long post.

  15. Aidan Stanger

    Eric Vigo – you’re underestimating the effect of the Australian dollar. As long as the government doesn’t do anything really stupid, the problem is self correcting – if Australian industry isn’t internationally competitive at Australian wages, our dollar will fall until it is.

  16. Rachael Redhead

    To Geewizz

    I agree with you that the unions have brought this upon themselves, particularly the international pilots union. What could be more militant than the PA announcements on their flights asking for support and their wearing of red ties. SHOCKING!!!
    Note the sarcasm.

  17. Rachael Redhead

    Just who is running this country? Just listened to Channel 10 News to hear Chris Evans, Workplace Relations Minister defending the Govt’s non-action by saying that Alan Joyce made it clear that he did not want Government intervention!!! Is that comment for real? As I say just WHO IS running this country.

  18. GeeWizz

    Why don’t the unions start their own airline?

    Oh thats right, because it’d be bankrupt within a month. My apologies.

  19. GeeWizz

    Why don’t these union bludgers start their own airline?

  20. Joal

    I have a real issue with the headline and the opening paragraph, which I feel misrepresents what he actually said (I’m not saying one way or the other whether what he has done is right, just trying to be fair).

    “A short while ago Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, explained to Alan Kohler on the ABC’s Inside Business program how the grounding decision had been intended to make the dissenting unions feel the same pain as the company and had brought ‘certainty’ to its passengers.”

    Saying that grounding aircraft brings certainty to your customers sure sounds a bit nutty, doesn’t it? Ha ha, yes they have certainty, now that they know they can’t fly. Very amusing. But what he said was subtly but significantly different.

    “If we hadn’t of taken this action, we would have had another year of continuous disruptions. We would have had another year of lost confidence for Qantas and we would have had another year of tens of thousands of passengers every week being disrupted. We would have had all of those jobs of the people that weren’t taken these actions at risk.

    I’ve done this to bring certainty to those customers, to bring certainty to the employees, and stop this slow bleeding of Qantas – the slow roasting of Qantas – that these unions were doing. Over a year, that would have killed the airline, killed its brand, killed its customer loyalty and destroyed the jobs of thousands of Australians.”

    So what he said was that the *aim* of the act of grounding the fleet was to bring the rolling industrial action to an end, *thus* bringing certainty to passengers.

    He certainly wasn’t saying that passangers have certainty now that the planes are grounded, but you sure made it sound that way when you read the headline.

    “He said the grounding would bring ‘certainty’ to Qantas customers,”

    Better, but I think it would have been more accurate by far to say that it would bring an end to the dispute, and thereby bring certainty to Qantas customers.

    In a dispute as fraught as this one, I would *really* like to see some honest and accurate reporting.

  21. Fran Barlow

    [ but I think it would have been more accurate by far to say that it would bring an end to the dispute, and thereby bring certainty to Qantas customers.]

    Well that would be his claim but whether that follows in practice is another thing entirely.

    I doubt it will bring an end to the dispute, and even if it does, it can only do so by bringing an end to QANTAS as it exists in the Australian imagination and turn it into a caricature of the brand as it was 20 years ago.

    And before that day comes, there will be bitterness and poor morale amongst the staff — not at all what you want from people looking after matters as important as air travel.

  22. Skylight

    Why don’t these union bludgers start their own airline?

    Simple answer:

    The engineers, ground staff, pilots, crew and other employees ARE the airline, having built up its reputation over decades of hard work and dedication.

    They are simply trying to protect what Joyce is mismanaging. GeeWizz, have you actually stopped to consider it from their perspective? Or are you just going to keep blindly spewing out anti-union rhetoric?

  23. Aidan Stanger

    GeeWizz –

    Why don’t the unions start their own airline?

    Do you really imagine Qantas would allow a competitor to represent its members?

    Why don’t these union bludgers start their own airline?

    Just who are the bludgers here? Does wearing a red tie count as bludging?

  24. TOM COOK

    gee wizz,go and have a look in the mirror you’ll see an idiot!

  25. GeeWizz

    [“The engineers, ground staff, pilots, crew and other employees ARE the airline, having built up its reputation over decades of hard work and dedication.”]

    Well if they are the airline and aren’t happy with the management here is a perfect oppurtunity to start their own airline with the union heavies as the management.

    Whose up for $100 an hour baggage handler jobs? Tickets will be competitively priced at $5000 for a return trip between Sydney and Brisbane, the lefties in here can put their money where their mouths are then.

  26. TOM COOK

    gee wizz,go and spew your rhetric to your young liberals meeting! you might even get a round of applause.

  27. dunph

    Wake up People.

    While Joyce is not going to win any awards for subtlety, the shock and awe is certainly preferable to a slow, lingering death.

    A question: how many readers have bought (or even drive) an Australian-made car?

    Well, I don’t and the reason is that you can buy foreign for a whole lot more features and a lower / equivalent cost.

    Cost is the issue here: putting aside the emotive issue of Australian icons and worker’s rights, the reality is that unskilled labour rates in the USA are $5.47/hour, compared to $15.05 here. Now, if we can’t compete with the U.S of A how are we going to compare with the second and third-world nations?

    This is the heart of the Qantas problem: the unions, just like those protected species in PanAm, TWA and other dead aviation icons are clinging on to history, rather than accepting the future. It is quite likely that we have seen the glamour-years of flying – a plane seat is now commodity – so Qantas must adapt, or die.

    Yes, Joyce will likely get paid-out and sacked: the messenger duly shot, will not have changed the outcome, just as we all freely choose to buy imported cars and cheaper fares from foreign-owned airlines!

  28. Warwick Williams

    The engineers, ground staff, pilots, crew and other employees ARE the airline, having built up its reputation over decades of hard work and dedication.

    AND it is these people, not the CEO’s, that have worked for the unspoken reputation that Qantas has held all these decades.

    The reputation? You need to revisit the movie, “Rain Man” and listen to Dustin Hoffman’s dialogue.

  29. wildsky


    I guess to compete with the USA we would have to import and accept the concepts of the mega-rich and the mega-poor, the insurmountable public debt, the social standards, the crime, etc…

    Not for me thanks

  30. dunph


    The difference between a Rut and a Grave is a matter of degree …

    It must be nice to be blissfully unaware of the true state of the country you live in.

  31. 'aveagomate

    Geewhiz would rehire those who would work on contracts, and gurantee (sic) their employment. In 2011 that constitutes an oxymoron. The only thing it guarantees is a lower – and lower – reward for your services. That’s at the core of globalism for a worker in the developed world.

  32. Venise Alstergren

    ‘Brought certainty to its passengers’ WTF does that actually mean?

    I’d like to venture a way for the CEO, Alan Jones, to save money for QANTAS. Do away with those god-awful TV ads yodelling “I still call Australia home”. They are nauseating and a declaration of our cultural cringe. The same cringe that allows Australians to have an English head of state.

    Of course he could also cut his own salary…..ha ha, I jest.

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