Qantas CEO’s War on Unions Blows Up

allan joyce

Qantas CEO Allan Joyce

Every indication is that Allan Joyce caught this entire region off guard when he decided to up the stakes concerning his personal battle with the three unions that service Qantas: pilots, engineers, and transport workers.

By unexpectedly shutting the airlines down, Joyce could not only teach union rank and file a lesson; but, he apparently felt he would gather public support against the unions. Indications are that this was a decision Joyce made alone as over 70,000 passengers worldwide were stranded without warning and the economic security of Australia began to weaken. 

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard may have regretted her hands-off approach to the Qantas problem, which has been festering for about a year, as she faced personal embarrassment at her summit of Commonwealth leaders in Perth. Many of the delegates had booked flights on Qantas that were canceled and have yet to be rescheduled. The Prime Minister stated the “government did not want to blame anyone” as she kicked this can of worms to the Labor Tribunal for resolution.

Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese expressed frustration and disappointment with Joyce’s unforeseen action, as he was in active negotiations with all three unions at the time of his self proclaimed shut down, but would go little farther than to deviate from the official government hymn of “the blame game will not help us at this point.”

Joyce tried to strengthen his hand by portraying the union membership as “being greedy” because “they have good jobs.” When asked about his personal threat of 16 August to abolish over a thousand jobs during a period in which Qantas doubled their net profits and Joyce’s CEO salary and benefits were elevated to the $5 million mark, Joyce changed the topic in an attempt to make it appear he had to shut the airlines down as “a matter of safety.”

sydney airport

Bags pile up at Sydney Airport.

When Joyce regrouped, he hammered home again his mantra of “greedy unions” and how his shut down was somehow linked to the new funds the unions were attempting to generate for themselves. However, Joyce did not address the fact that none of the pilots contract proposals has anything to do with wage increases or salary hikes. Regarding the pilot’s association, money has never been discussed as it has never been an issue.

Captain Richard Woodward, Vice President of the Australian Pilot’s Association, was more direct when he stated “Joyce should be fired….his actions are costing Qantas about $21.5 million a day…”

A no-brainer, right? According to David Liu, director of research at ATI Asset Management, “The outcome of this gambit will decide whether Joyce is a good or bad manager.” This is why the world economic system is in disarray.

Who in their right mind cannot look at this situation and not know Joyce is a bad manager? What planet allows a man who makes $5 million a year the ability to cripple a nation, disregard passengers who paid for airfare, and attempt to break three unions by distorting facts and lying to government agencies?

Undoubtedly this type of person will hide behind the cloak of ‘free markets’ and ‘capitalism’ but if this is an example of what these systems have become, then maybe we should reevaluate them.

James Rhodes

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