Updated with call for Judicial Inquiry by Qantas pilots union
The credibility crisis for Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has, inevitably, become worse as more evidence emerges that contradicts his version of his spontaneous decision to ground the airline on waking up on the morning of 29 October.
This story on ABC TV Lateline is in the same genre as an earlier report in which foreign flight attendants were found to working extended and unsafe shifts on Jetstar domestic flights totally contradicting the protestations to the contrary of its group CEO Bruce Buchanan.
It is an alarming situation, because it implies that Qantas will make up anything that serves its purposes without respect to truth or consumer law, and that it has a chairman and board which endorses this behavior.
It also led to a situation where, at Jetstar, Buchanan justified the training and employment conditions affecting the Thai flight attendants concerned as conforming with the standards of Thailand, not Australia, as if this was acceptable to the Australian consumers buying its domestic product.
Joyce has been invited to the reopened Senate committee hearing into the Qantas (Still Call Australia Home) bill this Thursday. He is understood to face around 24 questions some of which go to his integrity and indeed fitness to run Qantas, and his apparent attempt to mislead the senators.
Some of those questions are understood to relate to the illegal actions of Qantas in continuing to sell fares to consumers after it knew full well that contrary to Australian trade and consumer law, the services it was selling were going to be suspended indefinitely.
This was seriously misleading. It caused tens of thousands of it customers to be stranded, in some cases for much longer than the actual grounding, all around Australia and the world.
To date the compensation given to those passengers who were not members of its so called loyalty program has not been rigorously defined or accounted for.
The Lateline disclosures, last night, and earlier in the year, raise an important question in company law, which is whether or not the duty of senior managers and boards of directors to maximise returns to shareholders absolve them from being decent, honest citizens, or alternatively, that corporations and their executives and boards have a licence to lie in pursuit of their fiduciary duty.
The Qantas long haul pilots union has now called for a judicial inquiry:
The Australian and International Pilots Association is today calling for a full judicial inquiry into the circumstances of the Qantas grounding last month, following revelations on ABC1’s Lateline program that couriers were booked to deliver lockout notices prior to the Qantas AGM.
The report also found that senior cabin crew managers were flown to Singapore and Los Angeles on Friday to provide support on the Friday before the grounding.
The new ABC reports are consistent with advice received by AIPA that some 3000 hotel rooms were booked in LA ahead of the AGM, seemingly in preparation for the grounding.
The revelations directly contradict evidence given under oath to a Senate inquiry by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. Mr Joyce told senators the decision to ground the airline was made at 10am on Saturday, the day of the grounding.
AIPA Vice President Richard Woodward said today that a full judicial inquiry was now needed to get to the truth of the matter.
“In light of this report there are now grave questions over Alan Joyce credibility,” Captain Woodward said.
“If these allegations, aired on ABC1, are correct, Mr Joyce has lied to the Australian people, and he has lied under oath to a Senate Inquiry.
“We now have strong, independent evidence that has not come from the aviation unions in dispute, that the management team at a proud Australian icon has gone rogue.
“A judicial inquiry with the powers of a Royal Commission is now needed to get to the bottom of this and uncover the truth. The Commission must look at whether shareholders were misled at the AGM and identify whether the public and the Qantas workforce were lied to.
“Pilots have already been advised that thousands of hotel rooms were booked in LA ahead of the AGM in seeming preparation for the grounding. Our suspicions have now been fuelled by these reports.
“If Mr Joyce and his team have nothing to hide then they would have nothing to fear from such an inquiry.
“The couriers who have blown the whistle here need to be protected. Government regulators need to investigate what is starting to look like very serious misleading and deceptive conduct by the CEO of Qantas.”