Senator calls for Qantas CEO to resign as flight attendants threaten industrial action

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A Labor senator has called for Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to be sacked as the carrier’s domestic flight attendants threaten to strike.

Senator Tony Sheldon said Qantas was a “wonderful company” with a “wonderful staff” that was disappointed with its management’s decisions about workers’ pay and conditions.

His comments come after 99% of Qantas’ 1,200 national flight attendants voted in favor of industrial action over a protracted pay dispute.

The Flight Attendants Association of Australia has called on Qantas to provide a fair offer to staff who have spent several years on expired company agreements and whose wages have been frozen as a result.

The union says Qantas can afford to pay higher wages as travel demand rebounds from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Camera iconLabor Senator Tony Sheldon attacked Qantas. NCA NewsWire/Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia

Qantas raised its half-year pre-tax profit forecast for the first half of the 2023 financial year by $150 million, from $1.3 billion to $1.45 billion.

Senator Sheldon said the airline was now trying to move another 1,300 workers out of their company agreement and into individual contracts with worse terms.

He claimed Mr Joyce had compromised airline safety with the 2020 decision to outsource baggage handlers and other ground staff during the pandemic.

“When you take the low route, then that’s what you get in an airline, the low route, and there are safety consequences as well as consequences for the workforce and for the traveling public. “Senator Sheldon told Sky on Thursday.

Senator Sheldon is a former national secretary of the Transportation Workers Union and a longtime vocal critic of the national carrier.

He has spent the past two days attacking Qantas after the airline criticized Labour’s sweeping industrial relations reforms and warned the legislation could see some fringe flight routes closed.

As the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill nears the Senate, Senator Sheldon this week repeatedly accused Mr. Joyce and other executives of “corporate bastard gorilla.”

Senator Sheldon said the bill would prevent companies such as Qantas from tearing up company agreements and transferring their workers to contracts with worse terms.

Senator Sheldon noted on Thursday that he took the “corporate gorilla” line from the chief executive of the Australian Energy and Resource Employers Association, Steve Knott.

Mr Knott, who, by the way, is not a fan of Labor’s proposed industrial relations reforms, had used the term to describe angry mining executives.

Qantas disputed claims by Senator Sheldon that any staffing decisions taken by management had compromised the airline’s safety.

“The data shows that safety incidents and workplace injuries are even lower than they were pre-Covid,” a spokesperson said.

“Aviation is one of the most closely watched industries in Australia and Qantas would never, ever compromise on safety.”

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