After an unprecedented 44-hour grounding, Australian national carrier Qantas is expected to bounce back into the sky after a dramatic escalation of its dispute with unions went before the industrial umpire.
The resumption of flights was ordered by industrial regulator Fair Work Australia, which after a marathon hearing ordered a complete end to the dispute between Qantas and unions.
Justice Geoffrey Giudice, part of the industrial umpire panel, said the decision allowed for further negotiations between Qantas and unions over the next 21 days to try and hammer out their differences.
Qantas chief Alan Joyce while talking to reporters in Sydney said following the FWA ruling, international and domestic flights would resume in the afternoon.
“All industrial action is now over and we have certainty,” he said adding “We will be returning to business as usual over the next 24 hours.”
Head of maintenance operations at Qantas Alan Milne said 22,000 international passengers were stranded offshore, but it hoped the backlog would be cleared by this time on Tuesday.
Milne said operations would be able to start as soon as approval came from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
Meanwhile, the union representing Qantas baggage handlers and ground crew said it was considering appealing the decision to halt industrial action.
“We are also considering with our legal advisers whether we should appeal this decision,” Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary Tony Sheldon was quoted as saying in the “Sky News” report.
However, Sheldon said the union wouldn’t take action for the next three weeks as long as Qantas acted in good faith.
Meanwhile, pilots expressed concern that Qantas would use upcoming negotiations to “stonewall” employees.
Australian International Pilots Association (AIPA) vice-president Captain Richard Woodward said he predicted the forthcoming negotiations with Qantas would result in a forced arbitration.
“I think they (Qantas) will end up stonewalling us for 21 days, and we’ll end up in forced arbitration,” Woodward said.
Woodward said the move by Qantas to ground 108 planes and the subsequent ruling by the FWA had only emboldened the airline’s management.
Joyce, meanwhile, defended his action, denying he could have avoided grounding the fleet by taking the matter directly to FWA.
“It was the only way we could bring it to a head,” he said, adding that Qantas had made it clear to various ministers the situation couldn’t continue.
“We made it clear that our options and financial position was such that this could not continue,” he said.
Qantas would bounce back, he said.
“I have every confidence that we will recover back to a 65 per cent domestic market share and recover internationally,” he said.