||Issue No. 152||13 September 2002|
The Legacy of 11/9
Interview: Still Flying
International: President Gas
Politics: Australia: A Rogue State?
History: Levelling September
Unions: Welfare Max
Bad Boss: Welcome to Telstra!
Health: Fat Albert: The Grim Reaper
Poetry: A Man From the East And A Man From The West
Review: The Sum Of All Fears
The Locker Room
Week in Review
The CFMEU Race Debate #2
Keeping it Clean
Sue the Leaders?
How has life changed for cabin crew since September 11 last year?
Cabin crew have always put safety and security first - ensuring passengers are safe, aircraft are safe and our lives are safe. September 11 clearly reinforced that role. This is now at the forefront of everyone's minds. Cabin crew really enjoy their job and part of the job is the fun of interacting with customers, that's more difficult now. For instance there is no longer a possibility of visiting the flight deck and having some interaction with the flight crew there. So some of the fun has gone out of flights for passengers and crew.
Do you have members who were worried about continuing their jobs after the events last year?
Not necessarily continuing their jobs, but there was certainly a bit of a fear of flying to America and back. For quite some time after September 11 it wasn't quite clear how the security in America was going to be standing up to the new challenge of terrorism in aviation.
Immediately after September 11 there were predictions about the demise of the aviation industry and I know that your union and many others were told that things were going to be very tight over that 12 months, particular in the context of your pay talks. Were the threats actually realised?
Well it was a difficult time to predict. Internationally there has certainly been some impact on the aviation industry in terms of business and the frequency of flying. In Australia of course, events have overtaken that somewhat with the demise of Ansett Airlines. So I don't think the impact that the companies were predicting was quite as significant in Australia.
There were the record profits of Qantas in Australia, so something's gone right for them. What's been the story behind Qantas success?
Qantas has done very well, in the last 12 months, mainly because of the demise of Ansett and picking up their market share in Australia. Qantas cannot claim they've been hard done by and we would expect staff to be compensated for the pay freeze of the last 12 months.
There is another round of pay talks coming up what are your priorities for that round of negotiations?
There will be EBA talks starting in December. We are currently surveying our membership to find out what their priorities are and we will assess our position once the results are in. Clearly pay will be one important issue because our members told Qantas last year that while they were accepting a pay freeze there would need to be a substantial increase at the end of that period.
Any other issues on the table?
Job security has always been an issue for our members and that will continue. I would also see safety as an important issue for us, particularly with the new low cost airline entering the market: Australian airlines, which is wholly owned by Qantas.
We have recently seen headlines that Qantas wants to increase the ratio of cabin crew to passengers where's that coming from?
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is conducting a general review of all their regulations; part of that review is the passenger to crew ratio, which is currently at 1:36. Airlines like Qantas have made an application to increase that to 1:50. The FAAA of course is opposed to that because it is self-evident that that would decrease safety and security, particularly in light of the events of the last 12 months.
Is that the sort of issue that would be fundamental to your members?
Yes that's fundamental. Safety and security are the big issues for our members and will be the main priority. But that is not to say that they should not also earn a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
There have been comments from Qantas in recent weeks that failure to increase foreign ownership in the airline will mean they'll have to cut labour costs. Is there a logic in that that you accept?
It's evident with the record profits that Qantas is a very profitable company and is competing very well in the international market, so I cannot see any issue about international competitiveness.
About 12 months ago you launched your campaign on the status of cabin crew. Do you think flight attendants still have an image problem in the community?
Well I would say so, even if you read the headline in the Australian about the cabin crew ratios, we are called attendants not cabin crew, which we see as an important distinction. When people think of us as attendants on board they think about us serving drinks and meals. Cabin crew implies a much broader set of skills and responsibilities; we are an integral part of the crew on board.
How helpful for your professional status, were Virgin cabin crew posing in men's magazines?
I don't think it has done our professionalism campaign any favours, we don't really want to see those images, but I guess Richard Branson has his own approach to this. But I don't think most cabin crew would want to see themselves on the cover of a men's magazine.
Of course Virgin had an impact on competition in the market. After the Ansett demise it's probably good to have competition and keeps Quantas honest to some degree. But when you look at their initial fairs such as Sydney to Melbourne for $30 there is no doubt in my mind that no airline can keep up those sorts of fares and maintain a safe operation. So, in the end, I think passengers will lose out because no airline can operate on these kind of deals.
So what in your view is the perfect structure for the Australian Aviation industry?
There is certainly a place for two airlines in the Australian market, I don't know if it can sustain anymore than two and of course ensure some level of competition between the two operators. The role of government is to protect the market generally and particularly employment in Australia.
Another airline union, the LHMU, has been running hard on the need to increase resources for airport security on the ground. That would also be an issue for your members?
For cabin crew their workplace is the aircraft so, of course, security has to be at its highest and that really starts with maintenance and security on the ground, in particular the screening of passengers and freight. So we recognise that the workers on the ground are vital parts of the equation.
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