After some huffing and puffing, Qantas and the flight attendants union have agreed on a new deal for domestic cabin crew.

Qantas Boeing 737
Photo: John Mackintosh/Shutterstock

In November, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced the airline was forecasting a half-year profit of between AU$1.35 and AU$1.45 billion ($897-$964 million). A day later, the flight attendants union came out with the threat of strike action, just as the airline and the public prepared for the peak Christmas and holiday travel period.

Qantas and the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) were in negotiation over a new employment agreement for cabin crew that was seemingly going nowhere. Previously an FAAA-organized ballot of 1,200 cabin crew rejected a Qantas proposal and voted in favor of industrial action. However, this is now off the table as the carrier has reached a new agreement with its domestic crew.

Qantas flight attendant serving in flight food

Photo: Qantas

New aircraft mean longer shifts

After two years of wage freezes, the FAAA was negotiating a new deal, and apart from money, there were also issues around duty periods. With an eye on the new long-range Airbus A321LR/XLR aircraft it had on order, Qantas wanted to extend duty periods from 9.45 to 12 hours and up to 14 hours to cover disruptions. It also wanted to reduce rest time between duty to ten hours when flights were disrupted and no other crew was available.

On pay, Qantas had offered flight attendants 3% annual increases, more than AU$7,000 ($4,650) in bonuses, and 1,000 Qantas shares, which at the time were worth AU$6.19 ($4.10) each. Today the shares are trading at AU$6.50 ($4.32), a respectable 5% gain in four months.

Qantas Boeing 737-800

Photo: Ryan Fletcher I Shutterstock.

Fortunately, there was no strike, and this week, The Australian newspaper reported that Qantas and the FAAA had reached an agreement. Around 1,500 cabin crew voted in favor of the deal and accepted the Qantas 3% annual pay increase and the bonus payment and share offer. They would not have been eligible for the extra bonuses if they had gone on strike.

FAAA national secretary Teri O’Toole said the outcome was a great result for domestic cabin crew who had been prepared to take industrial action over Qantas’ initial offer. She added:

“This just goes to show what can happen when the company sits down with a real offer and works to get an outcome that people can agree to.”

Qantas clarifies what was agreed

As is often the case in these matters, the devil is in the detail, and sometimes it is not always clear what the detail means. The Australian report said that in a significant win for the FAAA duty hour limits will be extended by just 15 minutes instead of the two hours and 15 minutes sought by Qantas.

Qantas Airbus A321XLR

Photo: Airbus

The airline has not issued a statement on the deal, but in response to our call, a Qantas spokesperson clarified what had been agreed, telling Simple Flying:

“Under the new agreement we can plan crew to fly 2 sectors per day from home base to up to 12 hours and three sector days up to 11 hours. That’s an increase from the current limit of 9 hours 45 minutes.”

Qantas added that longer shifts attract penalty rates of up to 300% and that the new enterprise agreements are consistent with the Qantas Group wages policy. The spokesperson confirmed that cabin crew covered by the agreement would receive the AU$5,000 bonus, the 1000 share rights and the extra performance bonus of AU$2,000 for full-time employees and AU$1,500 for part-time employees.

What do you think about Qantas’ new pay deal? Let us know in the comments.


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