Australia's Jetstar flights cancelled as unions plan further strike action

Jetstar staff are requesting more rest breaks, a 12-hour break between shifts, a 30-hour work week, and annual wage increases of 4 per cent.
Jetstar staff are requesting more rest breaks, a 12-hour break between shifts, a 30-hour work week, and annual wage increases of 4 per cent. PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

MELBOURNE (BLOOMBERG) - Jetstar, the low-cost unit of Qantas Airways, cancelled 90 weekend flights because of a planned strike by workers, citing safety concerns. More industrial action is planned for next Thursday (Dec 19), union officials said.

The strike, supported by the Australia Federation of Air Pilots, follows a walk-off by ground crew on Friday at airports around the country, News Corp reported on Saturday.

Jetstar is consolidating some services, "up-gauging aircraft, re-timing flights" and operating supplementary Qantas and QantasLink services to buffer the impact on customers of the planned work stoppages, the carrier said in a Dec 11 statement.

It's cancelling 44 services on Saturday and 46 on Sunday. Jetstar operates about 370 flights a day on average.

Jetstar staff are requesting more rest breaks, a 12-hour break between shifts, a 30-hour work week, and annual wage increases of 4 per cent, the Transport Workers' Union said on Friday. Baggage handlers and ramp workers will take industrial action on Thursday after the airline denied workers' demands, it said.

Their claim equates to a 12 per cent increase in costs, including a 6 per cent increment in wages and superannuation, according to Jetstar.

The airline wasn’t able to immediately quantify the financial impact of the industrial action, Mr Gareth Evans, Jetstar Group’s chief executive officer, told reporters in Melbourne Saturday.

"It depends how long it goes for and what form that it takes," Mr Evans said. "What I can say though is that we want to get to an agreement, but not at any cost."

Agreeing to both unions’ terms would put "unbelievable pressure" on Jetstar’s business model, he said. "It would put unsustainable, upward pressure on low fares, which is at the heart of what we do."

The impact to Jetstar's international flights "is expected to be minimal with limited delays and cancellations planned", the carrier said.

The Transport Workers' Union said it wrote to Jetstar urging the airline to expand investigations into safety at all airports after the workplace health and safety regulator in New South Wales state issued a notice over the risk of "serious injury" to workers.