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QantasLink pilots extend strike to six days after 18 months of negotiations

Anna CoxGeraldton Guardian
Qantaslink A320 lifts off from Perth Airport
Camera IconQantaslink A320 lifts off from Perth Airport Credit: Credit: Geoffrey Thomas/TheWest

Pilots flying for Qantas subsidiary, Network Aviation, have walked off the job for six days as they continue a bitter 18-month negotiation process for improved pay and working conditions.

The strike, which was extended from two to three days on Monday, before a third extension was announced on Tuesday — involves pilots taking industrial action from February 14 to February 19.

Negotiations between the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) and Qantas began in October, in an attempt to reach an agreement which would see better working hours, breaks and increased pay awarded to QantasLink pilots who service regional WA.

“Qantas management has angered our Network members by walking away from negotiations and, last week, taking previously agreed items off the bargaining table,” said AFAP senior industrial officer Chris Aikens.

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Members of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) make up 90 per cent of the more than 250 pilots employed by Network Aviation and are eligible to take part in this lawful protected industrial action approved by the Fair Work Commission last year.

Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Joanne Fabling said: “I wouldn’t say this is fairly serious, I’d say it’s extremely serious. The ripple effect of something like this can go on for months.”

“You lose branding. Look at the existing anxiety that comes with booking a flight,” Ms Fabling said about the impact the strike will have on the carrier.

“Look to the local impact, when someone comes to Geraldton they book accommodation, go out for dinner, spend money on local services, car hire, staff are rostered accordingly weeks in advance,” Ms Fabling said.

“If someone can’t get on a flight, they’re looking at five hours of their time in a car, fuel — which is $2 a litre at the moment and the wear and tear on the car.”

Qantas said about 25 flights were cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday, which were peak flying days.

On Friday there are only nine cancellations with 97 per cent of customers getting away same day, on Saturday only two cancellations with all customers getting away on the same day and on Sunday, one cancellation with all customers re accommodated same day, Qantas said.

A Qantas statement said: “Network Aviation pilots fly significantly less than other Qantas Group pilots, due to the nature of the Network Aviation schedule and its large focus on intra-WA charters to support the mining industry.”

“The offer we have made provides significant pay increases while reflecting the different type of flying that Network Aviation pilots do.”

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