The Qantas heavies are finally free of BA and they are certainly cashing in if the latest annual report and notice of meeting for the forthcoming AGM is any guide.

Gee Qantas knows a good deal when it sees one. The board that is. There’s British Airways, now departed back to London, a very rapidly receding memory and what does the board propose in the notice of meeting?

Nothing more than propose showering more largess on non-executive directors and on the two most senior executives, Geoff Dixon and Peter Gregg. While the notice was on the ComSec website it wasn’t on the Qantas website Monday afternoon.

Approval is being sought to award CEO Dixon 450,000 deferred shares and a further 450,000 performance rights over the next three years to the end of the 2006-2007 year (his recently signed new contract expires on July 1, 2007. Cunning that. His pay won’t appear until the 2007-2008 annual report!)

At current prices they would be worth more than $3.1 million dollars in 2007. That’s equal to another 18 months or so pay under the deal revealed last month that sees Dixon being paid $2 million a year. He could also get a bonus of up to 60% of that figure. The basic salary could rise from year to year, lifting the bonus, so long as certain yardsticks are met.

This is Qantas’ statement on Dixon’s re-signing last months – Dixon re-signs

And this is Crikey’s report (scroll down until you get to the report on Dixon) – Dixon’s “Golden Package”

Dixon also has $6.7 million in retirement benefits and several hundred thousand shares under previous executive incentive plans.

Peter Gregg, the company’s chief financial officer will be offered 270,000 deferred shares and 270,000 performance rights. At current prices these have a value of around $1.7 million. Nice.

The notice of meeting reveals that the board wants to lift the approved maximum amount available for non executive directors from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. It says that if the board had a maximum number of directors, plus paid the chairman, “Dame’ Margaret her $400,000, and the $100,000 a year each to other independents, and the money it pays to board committee chairmen and members (but not the ‘Dame’), then the total amount payable would be $1.52 million. And some of that could not be paid because shareholder approval has only been given for $1.5 million. Qantas said $1.456 million was actually paid in 2003-2004. Non executive directors also get superannuation and “industry standard travel entitlements”.

The ‘Dame’, along with Mike Codd, Patricia Cross and James Packer are up for -re-election (Cross and Packer were appointed during the year). Does James Packer get paid and does her receive super and the ‘travel arrangement’? He doesn’t at PBL.

And remember that Dixon and the board, led by ‘Dame’ Margaret Jackson generously gave the staff a bonus of $1,000 each and committed themselves to spending $50 million on generous family and life balance measures over the next three years. That doesn’t include bunk beds and dormitories for the mooted brawl with staff in December, does it?

Rumors of plans for a brawl with staff over the new London international crew base continue to be the subject of comment as one correspondent reported over the weekend.

“In anticipation of major industrial action when their plan to force cabincrew to relocate to London comes into effect on December 17, Qantas want office staff to be able to serve as cabin crew and thereby defeat the strike.”

And this is what Crikey reported one insider as saying last week:

“The airline is going into defensive mode. With the proposed London base (49 have signed up for 480 slots) and the expected industrial troubles with the international cabin crew at Christmas, the ‘black widow’ (otherwise known as Lesley Grant GM customer service) has moved domestic crew to all regional flying on Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 767 (Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo) from October onwards. At the same time she offers leave without pay to international crew. In addition she has trained 700 strike breakers on fixed term contracts (in addition to office staff) for 10 months.”

“Would not suggest to anyone to book/fly Qantas international around Christmas. It is going to get ugly one way or another. A point confirmed in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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