Qantas’ Wapping Effect: Alan Joyce Might Be The Airline Industry’s Rupert Murdoch
ALAN Joyce,45, the Irish-born Chief Executive of the Oz flagship Qantas airline is openly as gay as the campiest steward to be found in any Little England cabin crew…but has bugger all sympathy with their fair wage and conditions causes.
In an unprecedented move, he told the entire fleet to get down and an industrial disputes quango has ordered him to put them back up again.
Photo: Qantas boss Alan Joyce shows the strain of his brinkmanship grounding of the entire fleet
Joyce sees the airline’s future as cutting down on long-haul flights world-wide and concentrate on the more lucrative (he thinks) Pacific Rim trade. Asia is the market he fancies and wants to cut flight prices, shedding jobs and old working ways to fund it all.
Australian trade unions have the sort of reputation once reserved for British Motor Corporation’s car plant workers. They are tough and bloody-minded and been fighting their corner for several months with a series of strikes. Qantas managements were reeling as disruptions to flight schedules became more and more difficult…especially as pilots were getting uppity too. Captains were making in-flight cabin announcements re the industrial disputes and annoying passengers and employer.
The Qantas board may very well have prodded their main man to the front to make the sensational announcement the airline was last Saturday grounding its fleet world-wide, locking out staff and taking on its three principal employee unions. Dramatically cutting its own throat before unions did.
The action hit world-wide and an estimated 70,000 passengers were stranded and scrambling for alternative airline seats. Almost all major airports were affected and many had empty cooled down Qantas planes near terminal gates.
Australia’s gutsy Prime Minister Welsh-born Julia Gillard, 50, was having none of it and referred the whole dispute to the Oz industrial supremo the quango Fair Work Australia (FWA) which through the night ordered the airline and unions to get on with it and sort out the dispute within a month or the quango would step in and do it for them. The furious government says Qantas gave it no warning of the grounding decision.
The Sydney Morning Herald said Joyce says Qantas will recover market share and press ahead with plans to set up an international business in Asia despite A$100 million in lost earnings.
The two-day grounding response to industrial action, cost A$20 million a day on top of A$68 million in lost since August. Many polled by Australian media think the Qantas board decision was correct.
Fair Work Australia ordered a halt to all industrial action involving three unions and Qantas after the fleet’s grounding.
Qantas international and domestic flights are now fuelling up and seeking permission from Australia’s Civil Aviation safety body to get airborne
Dublin born and raised Joyce said the airline would recover its domestic market share after seeing high-value customers leave Qantas “in droves” over the past few weeks.
If it doesn’t, the Qantas board and Oz Prime Minister are going show Joyce another Aussie traditional way of working and nail his tanned hide to the shed.
So he has a few worries, mate.
If he wins watch for the Wapping effect – the world’s airlines are all looking for some way to break the strangle-hold they say their unions have on business development. It ain’t over yet.