Qantas dispute takes shift to the left

INDUSTRIAL relations between Qantas and the union representing aircraft maintenance engineers have taken an unusual turn, with the union advising two of its members to repair planes using tools with their left hands only.

Qantas branded the tactics ''bizarre'' and warned it could put aircraft safety at risk.

The union instruction applies to maintenance engineers Wesley Bell, from Melbourne, and Vinko Vulin, from Perth, lasting a week from Friday.

''The use of screwdrivers and spanners will be accomplished using the left hand only,'' the union advised in a notification to Qantas's industrial relations manager.

All licensed aircraft maintenance engineer union members have also been instructed to strike for one minute on Friday.

The union has advised the unusual actions to keep open its window for protected industrial action following a ballot of its members authorising a range of work bans and limitations, which it must do within 30 days of the ballot under industrial ''use it or lose it'' rules.

Steve Purvinas, the federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, said: ''It will have no impact on safety at all. Both engineers have been aircraft engineers for over 30 years, so I think they're more than capable of carrying out their work with their left or right hand.

''Qantas is just being ridiculous over two engineers … carrying out their work like this - it might take them three seconds longer to do up a screw.''

A Qantas spokesman said: ''Quite frankly this has the potential to be a safety issue. If all 1600 Qantas aircraft maintenance engineers only used their left hand to maintain our aircraft this would be a safety risk.''

Meanwhile, Qantas subsidiary Jetstar said Melbourne to Beijing flights (via a stop in Singapore) would start from November 24.

With AAP

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