Nov. 21 - A dispute between Qantas and its pilots, baggage handlers and caterers is heading for arbitration, after talks break down. Arnold Gay reports.
A dispute between Qantas and its pilots, baggage handlers and caterers is heading for arbitration, after talks broke down. Pilots' union VP David Backhouse says he offered to extend discussions for another 3 weeks, but this was turned down. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVID BACKHOUSE, VICE PRESIDENT AUSTRALIAN AND INTERNATIONAL PILOTS UNION SAYING: "We presented an offer on Friday and that's been rejected outright today. We have always been willing to continue our negations into another 21 day period but that's also been rejected." Qantas is rejecting claims it terminated negotiations. The move means all sides will have to accept a settlement imposed by Australia's industrial umpire. Analysts say the move may benefit Qantas, as arbitration forbids any industrial action that would disrupt operations. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says he will be happy to accept the umpire's final ruling. (SOUNDBITE) (English) QANTAS CEO, ALAN JOYCE SAYING: "This now brings certainty to our customers, to our employees and to our share holders. Qantas will be happy to accept the adjudication of the independent umpire." Qantas says recent industrial action cost A$68 million ($68.4 million), led to a collapse in forward bookings, that forced it to ground the airline for about 3 days in October. The unions' are concerned about the airline's attempts to cut costs, and set up two Asia-based airlines, which they say will cost Australian jobs. Qantas wants to stem A$200 million a year in losses on its international business. At 0800GMT, the airline was still in talks with a union representing engineers, with a 1300GMT deadline to reach settlement. Arnold Gay, Reuters.