Thousands of travellers have had their plans thrown into disarray after dozens of Qantas flights were cancelled in Western Australia due to a pilots’ strike over a long-running pay dispute.
Pilots employed by a Qantas subsidiary Network Aviation walked off the job for 24 hours on Wednesday, with Perth Airport’s website listing more than 40 flights to regional towns and mine sites as cancelled.
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They are seeking a 50 per cent pay hike, but say half of that increase would only bring them up to the legal minimum under the award.
They also want a significant pay increase comparable to the salary received by other Qantas pilots flying similar aircraft around the country.
The airline has offered 25 per cent.
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Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) said it was disappointed its members had been forced to resort to industrial action and it remained committed to reaching an agreement with the airline.
“The decision to embark on protected industrial action has not been made lightly,” senior industrial officer Chris Aikens said.
“We had been hoping as recently as yesterday afternoon to resume discussions with the company to reach an agreement so that we did not need to take this action.”
Thousands of Qantas passengers and FIFO workers have had their travel plans cancelled or rescheduled as pilots walked off the job in Perth over a pay dispute. Credit: 7NEWS
Aikens said negotiations on an expired enterprise agreement had failed and many Network Aviation pilots’ wages and conditions were well below the Air Pilots Award.
“Network Aviation’s pilots are simply asking for something that is affordable and sustainable for the company and its workforce,” he said.
“The AFAP remains open to meeting with the company to progress negotiations in good faith in order to reach an agreement.”
Qantas said the AFAP’s decision to return to the negotiating table had come too late to stop thousands of passengers having their travel plans disrupted.
The company said half of Network Aviation’s scheduled flights had been cancelled, with about 75 per cent of customers booked on those services forced to move to other flights.
The airline said it was able to provide services to about 3500 travellers and charter flights for the resource sector using rerouted Qantas 737 jets for intra-WA flying and contracted aircraft from other operators.
Stranded passengers have been provided with hotel accommodation or fare refunds
Wage negotiations between Network Aviation and its pilots have been at a standstill since March, with more than 200 pilots affected.
The industrial action was expected to impact thousands of fly-in fly-out workers, with BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group and Woodside Energy forced to take measures to minimise the disruption to their operations.
This included cancelling non-essential travel, rescheduling travel to other days and booking charter services with other aviation companies.
Network Aviation operates more than 500 flights each week, flying the resource sector’s FIFO workers to and from regional towns and mine sites across WA.
There are estimated to be more than 60,000 FIFO workers in WA who fly into remote sites for mining, oil and gas projects across the state.
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