A meeting between the senior management of Qantas and the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) this afternoon has been followed by grim words on both sides.

Qantas reaffirmed that  “The international business is not sustainable in its current form and change is imperative for it to survive”.

The president of AIPA, Captain Barry Jackson, said “We are perplexed by their total rejection of any commitment to job security for our pilots linked to a reduced pay claim and substantial productivity improvements.”

Jackson made his comments in an interview after the meeting while Qantas circulated a detailed statement which is reproduced below at the end of this report.

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AIPA will now hold meetings of its pilots in Sydney on Friday and Melbourne on Monday “asking the members what they now want their representatives to do to pursue their constructive wish for job security and workplace improvements that will make Qantas stronger,” Jackson said.

“The question needs to asked of Qantas as to why they seem prepared to let go of an investment in training of pilots to the highest standards of any airline by outsourcing piloting and fleet overseas and transferring assets to Jetstar to the detriment of the Qantas brand.”

Fighting words, not restricted to the pilot side of the issues at all.

This is the Qantas statement that was widely circulated In the company this evening.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce met with an AIPA delegation earlier today, 9 February 2011. This was the latest in a planned series of meetings to identify common ground for initiatives to improve productivity in the long haul business. Normal EBA negotiations were suspended while these meetings occurred.
Unfortunately prior to the scheduled discussions today AIPA threatened industrial action in the national press:
“The Australian and International Pilots Association is prepared to limit annual pay rises to 2.5% in return for jobs guarantees, but warns that it will apply to take protected industrial action if the company rejects the claim.” (The Australian, 8 February 2011)
It is important to note that the overall wage claim from AIPA is not 2.5% pa as reported in the press. The combined effect of the annual and classification increases currently proposed by AIPA is 14.4% over three years. The combined effect of the wage claim, classification table and travel claims submitted by AIPA is a cost increase of approximately 26% over three years, equivalent to an 8.15% increase year on year.
AIPA has apparently also informed the national press that it has claimed a Group wide seniority list, but no such claim has actually been made to the Company. Other AIPA claims are divisive and would potentially result in other Group pilots being made redundant before a mainline pilot could be assigned accrued leave. The claim to require mainline terms and conditions in other Group companies is untenable.
At today’s meeting Alan reiterated the points already made to AIPA in previous meetings. In particular:
1.        Qantas is a great brand; the Group is committed to seeking to strengthen and grow the Qantas brand, but this has to be on the basis of the long haul business being profitable and returning its cost of capital.
2.        Qantas will not agree to a clause in the long haul EBA that attempts to regulate wages in other Group companies or which would effectively prevent commercial codeshares with other Group companies (this is part of what AIPA refers to as its ‘job security claim’). The threat to the Qantas long haul business is from full service competitors such as Singapore Airlines and the Middle Eastern carriers; it is not from Jetstar.
3.        Qantas is responsible for its own future and has to get its own house in order.
4.        The international business is not sustainable in its current form and change is imperative for it to survive.
All claims in the current long haul bargaining round will be assessed by Qantas against a couple of simple but critical criteria:
•        Will the change increase productivity and flexibility?
•        Will the change make the long haul business more competitive?
This is not about reducing wages for current Qantas pilots. It is about reducing costs by increasing productivity.
Today’s meeting was not productive. AIPA is seeking commitments under the heading of ‘job security’ that in practice would have precisely the opposite effect. The only way to secure jobs for Qantas pilots is to make Qantas competitive and profitable.
The path of industrial action threatened in the national press by AIPA is counterproductive and a destructive diversion from the real task at hand.
Qantas remains committed to working with pilots on initiatives to secure the long-term future of the international business.

Later the war of words led to emails to AIPA members pulling apart the figures quoted in the Qantas statement as bogus and including these statements:

AIPA has been informed that regardless of any efficiencies we are willing to provide, no formal job security provision will ever be given. In other words, “no matter how low you go, they will always look for someone cheaper”.

With this in mind, at these meetings AIPA will confirm the direction from its members in regards to action to be taken. It is expected a discussion on Protected Industrial Action will take place….

Qantas is unwilling to guarantee to pilots and to the public, that Qantas flights will be flown by Australian Qantas pilots. No matter what the pay claim is (which we say is reasonable and less than the claims of most unions at 2.5%), this company refuses to address the job security concerns of it’s pilots and the concerns of the public to not offshore Qantas pilots jobs!