Jetstar has managed to pacify disgruntled workers, at least temporarily.
The Transport Workers’ Union revealed on Monday that it had agreed to no more industrial action until it sat down with the Australian airline later this month for a summit.
“Following two sets of national industrial action Jetstar management have agreed to meet with baggage handlers and ground staff on 29 January 2020,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said in a release announcing the pause.
The actions forced Jetstar to take extraordinary steps, preemptively cancelling around a hundred flights in the lead up to the busy Christmas period and disrupting holiday plan, with the airline claiming at the time it would cost it as much as $25 million.
The union has for months been demanding an annual 4% pay rise and better condition for Jetstar workers including guaranteed 12-hour breaks between shifts and guaranteeing 30 hours of work per week. The TWU says these reforms are necessary for “the lowest paid [workers] in the Qantas group” but the airline had until now refused to come to the table.
“The workforce hopes that at this meeting the company will for the first time put forward its proposals for consideration, rather than just rejecting our modest claims. As a sign of good faith and a desire to see genuine negotiations we’ve assured Jetstar we will not take any further industrial action before the close of negotiations on 29 January,” Kaine said.
“Jetstar made revenues of $4 billion this year while the Qantas Group made profits of $1.3 billion. These workers stuck with the company during the tough times when Jetstar and Qantas insisted on pay freezes. Now they rightly expect to be treated fairly. It’s time for the scales to be brought back into balance, and the company to meet their modest claims.”
While workers agreed to a small pause late last year as a show of good faith before Christmas, this ceasefire appears to be the first real indication of thawing tensions between the two parties.
However, it’s not clear how long the newfound goodwill may last. TWU claims of job cuts and safety concerns at the airline have been categorically denied by Jetstar which says it has maintained the number of ground staff rostered on has not changed in 15 years.
“We would never put the safety of our people or passengers at risk, and we have robust safety management systems in place which are regularly reviewed and audited by regulators, including CASA,” a Jetstar spokesperson told Business Insider Australia.
The airline meanwhile says it promises nothing above the 3% wage increase that is implemented across the Qantas Group. Anything above that, Jetstar says, is unsustainable.
Such polar attitudes offer little hope for their meeting later this month. Unless the TWU compromises, it appears highly unlikely the two will emerge with an agreement.
In that case, the latest round of strikes last year could just be the beginning.