Fair Work Australia has ordered Qantas to resume operations under the terms of the Fair Work Act 2009. Flights are expected to re-start on the afternoon of Monday 31st October 2011, Australian time.
Qantas Airways Ltd (Qantas), QCatering Limited (QCatering), The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), Transport Workers’ Union of Australia (TWU) and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) have been in negotiations with the Australian airline since August covering a range of issues relating to restructuring.
The justification for the tribunal order is as follows:
“FWA is satisfied that the protected industrial action has threatened, is threatening, or would threaten:
(c) to endanger the life, the personal safety or health, or the welfare, of the population or of part of it; or
(d) to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it.”
The order noted that Qantas’ lock out of personnel and equipment on 29th October 2011 had affected 70,000 passengers, led to the cancellation of 600 flights, the grounding of 7 aircraft and caused AUD $70 million in damage. Qantas grounded its fleet in response to union demands. The tribunal related in the Order:
“It has indicated that the lock out will continue until the three unions abandon a number of identified claims. Qantas contend that if it granted those claims the airline’s commercial viability would be seriously impaired or destroyed.”
Qantas apologized to customers that “this action has become necessary” and offered full refunds for tickets and expenses. The Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, promised to aid Australians stranded by the action and in need of consular assistance. Extra staff have been drafted into Canberra to help deal with the resulting crisis. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship urged visitors to Australia with expiring visas to contact the department for emergency assistance.