IN MAY, around 1500 Qantas aircraft engineers took strike action in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne over a pay claim. They took this action despite rumours of 100 strike breakers being offered $100,000 for six months work in their place.

Over 18 flights were cancelled during two days of rolling stoppages.

Members of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) are seeking a 5 per cent pay rise per year, slightly more than inflation.

Qantas is offering an insulting below-inflation rise of 3 per cent.

With an expected record $1.5 billion profit coming in and Qantas being worth more than any one of the six U.S. carriers, the argument that it can’t afford a 5 per cent pay rise is a lie. Qantas management gave themselves a 22 per cent pay rise last year. CEO Geoff Dixon’s pay packet is now over $6 million.

The company’s market share increased by 2.2 per cent in the last year due to record high load factors.

Qantas has even told investors that they are “successfully managing fuel costs.” That’s because it has increased ticket prices by 3.3 per cent in the last two months.

Geoff Dixon is happy to allow rumours of strike breakers, while not having actually used any, in order to frighten the leaders of the ALAEA.

The surprise of the Qantas dispute is not that it took off but that it is being pushed by rank and file engineers.

“It is an excuse about the fuel, it’s all about profit,” says Transport Workers Union spokesperson Mick Pieri.

It is clear Qantas intends to get that profit increase by sacrificing the jobs and living standards of their employees.

The TWU covers other airline workers who will soon claim their own pay rise, along with air traffic controllers. If unionists strike together they will certainly clip the wings of Qantas arrogance and possibly beat the inflation cap.

By Tom Orsag

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