At least some of the senators conducting the Senate inquiry into pilot training and airline safety will by now have received a set of documents issued by Jetstar in relation to its New Zealand cadet training scheme and a commentary claiming it will undermine Australian industrial law in relation to terms and conditions  of employment.

These documents are relevant to the inquiry which among other things is considering the retention of pilot skills in Australia.

It wouldn’t be difficult to conclude from reading the Jetstar Cadet Funding document for example that the airline’s strategy is to embrace the employment of graduate Australian pilots provided they are paid under cheaper foreign labor agreements that void the requirement to pay the employer superannuation fund , currently at 9 per cent.

The documents provided to Plane Talking read like a ultra conservative fantasy about the gutting of Australian labor rules,  and escaping from the cost of tax and superannuation obligations in relation to work performed in Australia.

As such we can expect both the minority government and opposition in Canberra to studiously ignore these issues, and the precedents that they are establishing, just as they appear to be totally indifferent to disclosures about safety issues within Qantas and Jetstar that have already arisen in the Senate committee hearings.

Imagine you are the parent of a son or daughter already working in the small scale but demanding commercial  general aviation sector with the near universal ambition to escape into being appropriately trained and employed by a major carrier, in this instance Jetstar.

These are long documents, but here are a few extracts from the Cadet funding agreement which applies to a Jetstar Cadetship  which says it ‘will up-skill commercial pilots to a flight standard acceptable for employment as a Cadet within the Jetstar Group’.

Note clause 2.2 (f ) (above).  If Jetstar flies into a rough patch one year into a course it could pocket several million dollars by demanding full course repayments from hundreds of sucker cadets.  This is the sort of situation exploitation that in management speak is a ‘training course general revenue risk hedging opportunity.’

You don’t have to be a bad cadet to lose your job at Jetstar,  just a timely opportunity for the company to cash in your training costs.

Not that the company would act ‘unreasonably’. See below.

The anonymous pilot who sent the package of documents to Plane Talking says he or she believes the testimony given by Bruce Buchanan, the Jetstar Group CEO, to the committee on Friday in relation to cadet scheme remunderation was misleading.

That was also this writer’s impression, but it was hard to hear part of the webcast exchanges between Buchanan and committee members concerning currencies and amounts after his initial statement caused one member to ask him to repeat or confirm them.

This is what the anonymous pilot says:

The documents are lengthy and an ‘eye opening read’ but in terms of the inaccurate evidence given during the Senate Inquiry hearing referred to above the main points are as follows:

Mr Buchanan stated that Cadets were not paid in New Zealand Dollars, which I believe he may have later conceded following questions from the committee.  You will see clearly from the documents that this is clearly not the case.
Mr Buchanan stated that there was not a deliberate strategy to recruit offshore.  There have been numerous quotes in the press from him suggesting this evidence is inaccurate you will also see from the attached evidence that the intention is to have offshore based pilots flying in Australia on reduced remuneration. Mr Buchanan should be asked to clarify his previous responses.
Mr Buchanan confidently stated that the salary for Jetstar Cadets was 68,000 New Zealand Dollars.  You will see from the Sample Employment Contract issued that this is clearly not the case.  In the first 3 years the cadet will earn 48,000 NZD based on 150 scheduled block hours per quarter (Flight and Duty limitations will dictate that they will not be able to fly more than this).  This equates to approx. $32,000AUD.  There are no other allowances provided for other than overnight allowance of $85NZD ($63AUD) to cover meals.  Further as you may be aware there is no requirement in New Zealand for an employer to contribute to a Superannuation Fund as there is in Australia.  Mr Buchanan’s evidence is clearly incorrect.  From this salary you should be aware that each month the cadets have to repay back to Jetstar the costs a proportion of the ‘loan’ provided by the Company.  In the case of the Advanced Cadet Programme this is $940AUD (approx. 1,270NZD).  For Ab-Initio cadets the repayment will be higher (approx. double) given that they also have the costs of the Ab-initio Cadet Programme to repay also.
Mr Buchanan stated that this remuneration was comparable with the Award in Australia.  The first point I would make is that Jetstar have an EBA registered with Fair Work Australia however irrespective of this when compared with the Air Pilots Modern Award 2010 the cadet pilot remuneration under their NZ Contract is approximately 60% less and up to a further 10% less again when allowances are taken into account.  As you are probably aware the Modern Awards specify the minimum wage required to be paid by Australian employers.  Mr Buchanan’s evidence was clearly misleading.

He or she also refers to the disgraceful treatment of the nurse who tried to help a passenger who had collapsed from an apparent heart attack during a flight between Singapore and Darwin, and was then asked to pay a higher fare by the airline who breaking her original booking to accompany the passenger to hospital.

As an aside, I understand that Jetstar Cabin Crew are not given First Aid and CPR training as part of their training course as testified by Mr Buchanan, neither are the A320/A321 fleet fitted with Defibrillators, part of standard equipment on Qantas Aircraft.  If this is not evidence of cost cutting in the area of safety within the LCC subsidiary I do not know what is.

Added to other concerns about the testimony given to the committee by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce on Friday, and the disclosures of serious incidents involving Jetstar and Qantaslink by Senators  Bill Heffernan (the chairman) and Senator Nick Xenophon (the instigator of the inquiry) and some rather sharp questioning by the other members, this inquiry is engaged in considering some momentous issues for Australian air travellers.