Iconic Qantas has ‘corporate responsibility’ not to offshore maintenance jobs: Unions

Australia’s manufacturing union is imploring Qantas to maintain its commitment to on-shore maintenance, following yesterday’s news that the aircraft carrier is reviewing its maintenance operations.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), along with the AMU and ETU – who collectively form the Qantas Engineers’ Alliance – say Qantas should promise not to send its Tullamarine, Avalon and Brisbane maintenance operations offshore.

 “I believe Qantas should stick by commitments it has recently made in its own advertising and guarantee that 90% of its maintenance remains in Australia regardless of any review of maintenance,” said AMWU national secretary, Dave Oliver.

"We will vigorously campaign against any proposals to offshore any maintenance resulting from the review.”

Yesterday the airline reported a $202 million profit before tax for the half-year ending 31 December 2011, which is $215 million down from the corresponding previous period.

The company blamed industrial action and record high fuel costs for the decision to review its maintenance operations – a 60-day pre-decision consultation process “to address declining work volumes resulting from new aircraft technology and work processes,” said a company report.

The unions are concerned that sending Qantas maintenance offshore would also mean losing extremely high skills from Australia’s engineering workforce.

"The standards and quality of the Qantas Australian maintenance operations have delivered a safety record that is second to none. Alan Joyce recognised that fact this morning and reiterated Qantas commitment to doing 90% of its maintenance in Australia,” said AMWU’s Oliver.

AWU National Secretary Paul Howes said Qantas had a corporate responsibility as an Australian icon to support local jobs.

"Qantas provides more than 6000 jobs across Australia,” Howes said

“These jobs and a commitment to our local airline industry are an important part of its corporate responsibility as our national carrier.

"We will work with our members to support them through this review process – and aim to minimise any job losses caused by the new maintenance requirements of any new aircraft."

The airline’s maintenance review will consider changes to line maintenance processes with the introduction of a more tailored system for next-generation aircraft operating domestically, along with consolidation of a range of engineering functions for greater efficiency.

It is also cutting 500 workers from its catering team.

The carrier has been struggling against the European financial crisis, the changing Australian economy and the need to increase efficiency and competitiveness.

“These steps will position the Group for a strong, sustainable future and build long-term shareholder value,” said the company.

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