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Australia Transportation

Australia's Biggest Airline Grounds Its Entire Fleet 374

Posted by Soulskill
from the self-imposed-no-fly-zone dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Australia's national airline QANTAS, famous for never having had a fatal crash, has been grounded effective immediately by its management. The grounding is in response to industrial action by union employees and has stranded passengers all over the world, with 108 planes grounded indefinitely. The Australian Government is seeking an urgent industrial relations hearing in a likely bid to suspend the industrial action and halt further damage to the Australian economy."
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Australia's Biggest Airline Grounds Its Entire Fleet

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  • by couchslug (175151) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:37AM (#37878636)

    Those who object to non-tech stories polluting this site, speak up and don't post AC when you do it.

    Enough. We have sufficient ordinary news sites and don't need that distracting bullshit here.

    If it's not a relevant TECHNOLOGY or related story, post that shit somewhere else.

    You don't need to post it here. We don't need it here.

    "Tech or GTFO!"

    • Well said! Someone buy this man a beer!
    • by toriver (11308)

      The word "technology" is curiously absent from the phrase "News for nerds. Stuff that matters."

      • by Raenex (947668)

        It's implied by the word nerd [yahoo.com]:

        "2. A person who is single-minded or accomplished in scientific or technical pursuits but is felt to be socially inept."

        Science and occasional math stories, sure. Union disputes in Australia? No.

      • Yet the abbreviation tech is strangely present in the URL of this story, posted as it was on tech.slashdot.org, not politics.slashdot.org.
    • "Tech or GTFO"

    • by Fished (574624) <amphigory@gAAAmail.com minus threevowels> on Saturday October 29, 2011 @11:15AM (#37879508)
      I disagree. I see several good reasons for Slashdot to post mainstream news and wish they would do more of it. First, slashdot has a unique format. Second, it has a unique community, whose comments on mainstream news I often find insightful (particularly after they're run through the gauntlet if slashdots unique moderation system.). Third, it raises attention to mainstream stories I might otherwise have missed. If you don't like it, just gointo your preferences and filter your categories appropriately.
      • by Raenex (947668)

        filter your categories appropriately

        You raise some good points, but note that this was posted under the "tech" category.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        And when there is no more "News for Nerds", what filter will BRING IT BACK?

    • by labnet (457441)

      Hey bud.
      It's News For Nerds, Stuff that matters.

      I visit this site everyday, so I must be a nerd.
      My wife is stuck in Sydney because of this, so to me it is 'Stuff the Matters'.

      This is a grounding of the ENTIRE airline which is unprecedented, with NO notice (We only have 3 domestic carriers). Thus if you were in transit somewhere around the world (or on a codeshare flight) with QANTAS, you are now stuck.
      I think this is newsworthy enough.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Bloody hell, slugo, don't like the story don't read it and don't comment.

      Stories here are menat to be stories of any interest to geeks and nerds, that's any interest at all and, politics and unions and economic et al are of interest.

      Bugger you and piss off if you think you can choose for me what will be of interest and what will not. If 'I" repeat 'I' have an interest 'I' will open up the story, check out the article and maybe comment.

      You disgust me, censorship freak, you offend me, your reasoning th

  • by jbwolfe (241413) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:39AM (#37878654) Homepage
    Outsourcing- plain and simple. This strategy is in use here in the US but so far has not succeeded. Everyone spits on labor, but this is what labor can do best for its constituency- protect companies from sending work to the cheapest bidder. Can anyone say that they want budget pilots? How about another Colgan Air in Buffalo. This is where paying for experience pays off, but management focuses on cost and fails to account for the value of quality.
  • I think the desire to make this announcement "This is in response to the damaging industrial action by three unions" was more important than keeping their customers informed and their employees happy. If someone is stranded it is because Qantas is playing politics with its customers and screwing its employees.

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:57AM (#37878834)

      ...Qantas is playing politics with its customers and screwing its employees.

      Quantas is trying to screw the employees. The unions are trying to screw Quantas. The results screw the customers. If the customers are smart, they will vote with their wallets to screw Quantas and the unions.

      That is called a cluster fuck.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I had to google to find out what "Industrial action" is. The links in TFS are incredibly vague -- what "damaging industrial action" did they ground the fleet for? According to wikipedia it could be
      Strike
      Occupation of factories
      Work-to-rule
      General strike
      Slowdown (or Go-slow)
      Overtime ban
      So which one(s) was it? It looks like union busting t

      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        Awesome isn't it. The employees are wearing red ties so management stops all flights and tells customers the employees are performing "damaging industrial actions".

      • Rolling strike and work stoppages, at unannounced locations and times. According to QANTAS' news releases, it's costing the airline about 2 million AUD per day.

  • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:41AM (#37878676)

    On the one hand, current (and immediately previous) QANTAS management has been woeful, and are now merely reaping what they have sown.

    One the other, the employees in question are already on a pretty sweet deal, and asking for more is just raw greed.

    • by HalfFlat (121672) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:59AM (#37878856)

      So, don't the other domestic Australian airlines employ people belonging to these unions? Meanwhile Qantas doubles its profits, spends 10 million dollars on a re-branding exercise, and gives a 1.5 million dollar raise to its CEO. Now this current suspension is estimated to be costing them $20 million per day.

      If I had to choose a side based on the available evidence, it would not be Qantas' management.

      • by toriver (11308)

        Don't you know the CEO is very important? The reason planes fly is that airline CEOs do magical rituals in their offices. No rituals == no flying. That is why CEOs are paid more than the people we think are necessary to the airplane's operation.

      • by Cimexus (1355033) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @11:03AM (#37879378)

        Qantas employees generally already have higher pay and better conditions than equivalent positions at other domestic carriers (Virgin, Jetstar, Tiger) - and FAR more than carriers in almost any foreign country that you could name. Also, Alan Joyce, though just given a $1.5M raise, voluntarily took a $7M/year pay cut previously. So he's just regaining some of what he previously lost (not that that justifies anything, just pointing it out).

        AJ is a bit of a dick, but Qantas really is between a rock and a hard place. Or more accurately, Qantas International (the domestic arm is doing fine). QF international is losing money hand over fist through no real fault of their own. The problems are:

        1. Geography: Australia is a terminus when it comes to air travel. You don't travel 'through' Australia to get to anywhere else. So you don't have the advantages of being based in a hub, like places in the Middle East or Asia, which can attract substantial traffic from within their catchment area and ALSO a lot of transit traffic (people just passing through in transit to other locations). Australia is the 'end of the road' so to speak, which makes their potential market much smaller.

        2. Australia has an open skies policy these days, which has allowed the likes of Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Emirates, Malaysian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad to operate Australian services. These are airlines that already have the inherent advantages of being based in hub locations (thus are not as reliant on origin-and-departure traffic as Qantas is). They are also airlines that, due to being based in locations with much lower wages than Australia, have costs in the order of HALF what Qantas has, to operate the same flights. Qantas tickets are therefore more expensive. And as a result, noone buys them - Qantas now has only 20% market share for international flights to/from Australia (and falling).

        So, QF international is losing money. Their successful domestic arm has been subsidising it, but that can only continue for so long. So what's the solution? They can either start basing at least some of their core maintenance and piloting operations from a hub somewhere in Asia (Singapore, HK etc.) ... or go out of business. This is what Alan Joyce announced earlier this year as a plan to save QF International - moving some operations offshore and creating a new premium airline in Asia. The unions oppose it - they obviously don't want jobs to be lost within Australia, nor do they want their members to miss out on pay or entitlements. Fair enough, from their perspective.

        But what would you have Qantas do? They have no choice - if QF International is to survive at all, they MUST significantly reduce their cost base. That would be impossible to do while keeping all existing jobs in Australia. And even more impossible to do if the unions force them to pay even more. They are competing against foreign carriers whose costs are half as much, remember. What a sad thing it would be if Qantas - the second oldest continuously operating international airline in the world - was forced to close its doors.

        There really are two sides to this story - the vilification in the media of Qantas as being greedy, un-Australian etc etc. is to some extent unjustified, as they are really running out of options, and noone can force them to keep operating their international arm at a loss.

        • by oztiks (921504) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @11:37AM (#37879658)

          One word ..... Ansett

          The same board of directors that ran Ansett sit on the board of Qantas. Read between the lines, cutting cost / slicing up and selling chunks of the business is an attempt for those very same directors to pocket a little extra cash!

          Since when did running a business mean you can ruin lives destroy a proud Australian brand? Those parasites sitting on the board are SELLING assets and pocketing commissions in the process, look at what's happening to the frequent flyer program it's going to Jet Star, WTF?

          I understand the union strike, it's well placed and frankly if you're a worker whose proud to wear the Qantas uniform and go to work each day then suddenly have his livelihood destroyed and self pride, I'd be there backing you up!

          Did you see the eyes on the CEO when he made the announcement, that asswipe is truly butt hurt and so he should be. He didn't expect the unions to bitch slap him for six!

           

        • by syousef (465911)

          Qantas employees generally already have higher pay and better conditions than equivalent positions at other domestic carriers (Virgin, Jetstar, Tiger) - and FAR more than carriers in almost any foreign country that you could name. Also, Alan Joyce, though just given a $1.5M raise, voluntarily took a $7M/year pay cut previously. So he's just regaining some of what he previously lost (not that that justifies anything, just pointing it out).

          AJ is a bit of a dick

          There's an understatement. Does it not even register that he's able to afford to take a $7M/year pay cut? What must he be earning. Also to shut down the airline THE DAY AFTER getting a $1.5M pay rise....I just don't see how anyone can justify that. He should lead by example. If people must sacrifice he shouldn't be taking a pay raise that is equal to the entire salary of 20 of his lesser paid employees. Whether or not any of the union's conditions are met, the man should be sacked. He is incompetent, a hypo

  • Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:41AM (#37878684)
    I would wager that the protests beginning with Arab Spring have emboldened the 99%ers world-wide to take action against class oppression and start class warfare. Since Occupy Wall Street has gained steam, people are feeling bolder about speaking out and taking non-violent action to make their demands heard. If this means bringing the 1% to its economic knees, so be it. I am a member of the 99% and I have had it with the 1% not only telling me how to live my life economically but with their power to pass ridiculous criminal/civil laws to ensure that they stay in power. I support the 99%ers everywhere.
    • by inflex (123318)

      Except in this case, it's the actions of a 1%'er bringing the 99% to its knees.

      The "boss" (Alan Joyce) just had his pay upped to $5m/yr yesterday... now he's grounded the fleet. Either a genius or a mad-man, maybe both.

      • Joyce had his pay upped as per his contract, the labour groups want non-contracted increases. And it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fulfil those demands per year.

        • by HalfFlat (121672)
          'Hundreds of millions'? Qantas has 33000 or so employees. Even a $5000 p.a. increase in salary to every employee wouldn't make it to the hundreds of millions. On the other hand, Qantas did just double its yearly net profits, to a total of $250 million.
          • by Toonol (1057698)
            A $5,000 increase in salary to every employee would suck up the funds needs to hire 3,300 more employees at $50,000 salaries. Which would be better to have?
            • I don't know. Does Quantas NEED 3,300 more employees? Wouldn't offering employees pay rates at the top of the industry attract the best employees available? After all, that's the argument the elites use to justify seven or eight figure incomes for CEOs. I mean, they HAVE to pay that much in order to attract the best candidates.
      • by jbwolfe (241413)
        You are right sir! Regrettably, however, it will be spun otherwise by politicians and right wing media. This all began with Joyce accusing the pilots of being too expensive for the company to succeed. Ozzie courts sided with business. I tire of hearing "it has to be fair" when management speaks of pay and benefits for employees- what's fair about their compensation! Why do they get to decide their own pay and accuse labor of greed. Who do they answer to- themselves and directors (not on 99% side) and instit
    • by Toonol (1057698)
      Unions, recently, are working to increase the benefits of a smaller group of employees, which means a higher unemployment rate for the remainder. What we need is the opposite. The compensation level of full-time employees is not a large problem, but unemployment is. Right now, the economy needs a little more union-busting and low-paying entry-level jobs.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tgd (2822)

      Here's a little fact for you. You ARE a 1%er. The people who are richer than you are not telling you how to live your life economically, they're the ones who are powering the economy that enables you to. And the only reason you're not living in shit-poor poverty working 18 hour days on a farm like people 150 years ago is because there is a literal army of near slaves working around the world.

      The Occupy Wallstreet people are massive hypocrites, complaining about the weathy while wearing the clothes that were

      • by RogerWilco (99615)

        I think the 99% is just a moniker. What the Occupy movement really seems to be about* is income and opportunity inequality and the political influence of money.

        Their goals are more income equality and democracy. Those usually benefit the ones at the bottom the most, so the Occupy is a good thing for those $4000/year workers you are defending.
        It's the low income people in the Western World and elsewhere who buy the products from those sweatshops, millionaires wear designer and tailor made clothing. Even if t

      • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tom (822) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @06:22AM (#37885278) Homepage Journal

        Nonsense, all of it. I'll pick out just some common points:

        a) Economy doesn't work on a "fixed average" principle. The thought that for every $ that I make above some arbitrary average (which one, arithmetic, geometric, median? why?) someone else makes a $ less is just bonkers. Apparently, there's somewhere an assumption in there that the total amount of global wages is coming out of one fixed source, i.e. the same bank account pays all wages on the globe, so whenever I take something out, there's less in it.
        But the economy doesn't work that way. Economy is not the product of money storage, it is the process of money flow. The $ I make is not vanishing from anywhere, it is going to go somewhere else, i.e. I will be spending it again. Possibly on some sweatshop product. In other word, some poor working is going to get his $ exactly because I got mine first and could spend it. Yes, I realize he's going to get maybe a cent of the $ I spend. But if I hadn't had that $, he wouldn't even have gotten that cent. I didn't take a $ from him, and frankly, if I hadn't gotten the raise and had not gotten my $, do you really think some poor people somewhere else would have gotten it instead?

        b) Being well-off does not disallow you to protest against the injustice you see. Having some justice does not preclude you from demanding real justice. That's a stupid argument. Basically, you could tell anyone who protests against anything today that he should up because somewhere someone else is certainly worse off.
        It's a trap. It's a "shup up" strategy. Fortunately, the 99% have finally avoided that trap, which has stopped movements for decades. "Think globally, act locally" was a good principle, but not thought through. If you beat me with a stick, that is not ok just because someone somewhere is getting beaten with a bigger stick. I can still demand you stop beating me, and take action to stop you. The argument "someone else is getting beaten worse" is stupid at best.

        c) Protests by the middle class are, historically speaking, a ton more effective than protests by the poor. If you look at revolutions throughout history, the ruling class was overthrown way, way more often by the middle class than by the poor. And most often when the middle class and the poor were united against the ruling class. That is when the rulers become afraid, because usually, they position the middle class as a defensive system against the poor - with arguments like yours. That they should be happy with what they have, because others have less. With the addendum that if they want to keep it, they should defend it against the poor. But when the middle class turns around and says "hey, wait. Why fight the poor? You have more than we do, we could take it and split it up between the poor and us, and a lot of people would be very happy" - that's when palaces get stormed and regimes toppled.

        d) Sweatshops have a bad rep, but I dare say it is overrated. Oh, I certainly wouldn't want to work there - but a lot of the poor voluntarily do. There are many who leave their farms and go to the cities in order to work in factories. It's a miserable lot, but it beats the alternatives. And that's what so many of us forget when we compare it to our own lives. Sure it would suck to be a factory worker in China today. But China is lifting several millions of its people out of even worse poverty every year. Sweatshops are how it works. Maybe the alternative would be $250 jeans - but it would also mean more poor people, because if the wages are the same in Europe and China, you'd probably buy the jeans from some European company, and the hypothetical chinese factory worker would not end up having the same wage - he would end up having none.
        Yes, our desire to buy stuff cheaply is contributing to low wages elsewhere. However, it is also contributing to there being wages for this stuff at all. And those wages would be higher if we would be paying more, yes. They would also be higher if the 1% had a yearly income of, say, 20 ti

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:46AM (#37878720)

    The folks at Qantas or the government should employ Reagan solution: Fire all those striking employees, then immediately advertise their positions at even lower compensation.

    With the strike having the potential of affecting the Australian economy, decisive intervention is necessary. I am quite sure these positions once advertised, will get serious responses, even though the unemployment rate of Australia is at about 5%.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jbwolfe (241413)
      Oh, I see. You want to scab. Go right ahead and do it. Let's all race to the bottom. You will soon have no middle class to support your egalitarian view of society with that point of view- good luck with that. I suppose you think America is doing great with the concentration of wealth at the top and the evolving plutocracy. Ever hear of the French Revolution? Some similarities in our current economic situation. Government is bought and paid for and the country is run by plutocrats. It's your country too, Am
    • by vadim_t (324782)

      I propose an alternative:

      Fire the management, and advertise their new positions at 5% of their current wage.

      After all, it's the employees who do the actual work. Most of the people on the top probably can't even competently sweep the floors, let alone fly an airplane.

    • The folks at Qantas or the government should employ Reagan solution: Fire all those striking employees, then immediately advertise their positions at even lower compensation.

      This isn't a strike. The shutdown is on the orders of the management, who ordered planes already on the taxiway back to the terminals without any warning to passengers and just days ago advised shareholders that negotiations were continuing (though apparently they booked thousands of hotel beds in advance).

      But I agree, fire those responsible and advertise their jobs at a lower rate...I think it was fairly crass of the CEO to accept a 72% pay rise under the circumstances anyway.

  • Not relevant here (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:50AM (#37878762)

    I'm an aussie and even I don't think this story deserves to be here. Combined with the prominent slashtervizing and other poor quality stories this place is slowly becoming a news ghetto (and apologies to all who live in ghettos)

  • by jbwolfe (241413) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @09:55AM (#37878824) Homepage
    ...prevents this type of wildcat strike. Airlines are governed under the RLA (Railway Labor Act) which makes wildcatting illegal. The parties must negotiate in good faith before being released to self-help. This is why consumers (travelers) get a 30 day heads-up before a shutdown, and why contract negotiations take 4 to 5 years. It's also why airlines will drag out the process doing only just enough to please the NLRB, resulting in lengthy and drawn out process. Management plays games too.
    • Well come on now, it's a negotiation. Like trading a house or a car, one guy wants a high price, the other wants a low price. People play the games they can (oh, there's a scratch, you'll save money bc the insulation is better, etc).

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      ...prevents this type of wildcat strike. Airlines are governed under the RLA (Railway Labor Act) which makes wildcatting illegal. The parties must negotiate in good faith before being released to self-help.

      Just a point that "negotiations" on this issue have been ongoing for a year, if not longer, and there have been several previous strikes (all with the appropriate notice periods).

      This is an apparently spontaneous action by QANTAS _management_. The Unions have been quite responsible about their actions.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Management plays games too.

      Not as bad as the games the unions try to play in the airline industry. Forcing their way into people's houses, blocking them into their driveways. Claiming "interference" when the airline publicizes the vote date to their employees after the union gets the rules changed to favor them.

  • " ... Mistakes are often the stepping stones to utter failure. ..."

    That was the Slashdot 'Quote of the day' displayed when I read this topic (and set out to grumble, which is what this comment is).

    I actually don't really agree with the sentiment expressed ... mistakes are key to learning, and often lead us where our tunnel vision won't let us go. But you can't argue that all mistakes have some saintly outcome; some are just warnings that you should stop now and abandon your course. Maybe the random /. quote

    • by gordguide (307383)

      WTF; rest of my post disappeared.

      Should Read:

      On That Note ...

      An airline was shut down by executive order over a labour (as they spell it in Australia) dispute.

      This is not a Slashdot Story. Stop approving these or "utter failure" looms ominously.

  • The summary is calling it "Industrial action by union employees". Most news outlets are just calling it a "strike". The needlessly long and obtuse description used here on the front page could be read to mean intentional equipment sabotage instead...
  • QANTAS has at least 12 fatal no-jet a/c accidents.
    • Apparently, after every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a ‘gripe sheet’, which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humour. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas’ Pilots and the solutions recorded by maintenance engineers.

      Pilots: Left inside main ti

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Saturday October 29, 2011 @11:33AM (#37879626)

    http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/210079/20110908/joyce-s-record-pay-rise-rubs-salt-in-qantas-pilots-wounds.htm [ibtimes.com]

    Mr Joyce has increased his annual take home pay to $5 million, with other key executives have increased their multimillion dollar packages by similar ratios.

    âoeThe 71 per cent increase comes despite the Qantas share price dipping 16 per cent in the last financial year,â AIPA said.

    It also comes at a time when Qantas has announced it will be sacking 1000 Australian workers and shifting local operations to Asia to avoid employing Australians.

    ---
    Take a huge raise,
    Lay off 1000 employees.
    Then shut the airline down when they protest.

    Mr. Joyce must be learning how to run a company from Reed Hastings (Netflix).

  • by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Sunday October 30, 2011 @02:06AM (#37884548)
    The CEOs of Singapore and Cathay, better airlines, earn much less than Joyce. Joyce and his executive mates just awarded themselves big fat payrises, but are crying poor to the employees. QANTAS is much owned my institutional investors. It is the executives that have all the power and the big fat paychecks. You might want to check this out: http://www.smh.com.au/business/tough-times-in-the-executive-suites-20110907-1jxpo.html [smh.com.au] 'The former chief executive of Singapore Airlines, C S Chew, for example, managed to get only between $S1.25 million ($982,000) and $S1.5 million ($1.18 million) in his last nine months at the airline. Cathay Pacific's former chief executive (now International Air Transport Association director general) Tony Tyler was paid $HK11.48 ($1.4 million) in his final full year at the airline. Joyce's $5 million pay packet dwarfed that of the head of Asia's largest airline in terms of fleet size and passenger movements, China Southern. The president of the Guangzhou-based airline, Tan Wangeng , was paid a relatively paltry 1.03 million yuan ($153,000) last year. The entire board of China Southern's supervisors, executive directors and non-executive directors (including Tan) was paid about $855,000 during the same period.'

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