Qantas strike threat rises after crisis talks with unions

TENSIONS with unions have escalated dramatically at Qantas in the past 24 hours, with strike action more likely than not, following a crisis summit held between the airline's management and union leaders in Sydney yesterday.

And a powerful union has called on Australia's competition regulator to investigate whether Qantas is price-gouging passengers with its recent fare rises.

The Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, fronted a meeting of the ACTU and key union bosses at the airline's head office to outline the challenges facing the airline and to call for wage restraint and flexible employment conditions.

But the unions interpreted the Qantas chief's address as an attack on Australian workforces, pay and conditions, and the shift of more jobs offshore.

Qantas declined a request yesterday to speak to Mr Joyce.

The Transport Workers Union federal secretary, Tony Sheldon, described the two-hour meeting as ''tense'' and what they heard ''disappointing''.

A Qantas spokesman said: ''We made it quite clear to the unions that we are not prepared to negotiate on their demands for guaranteed job security, which would damage the Qantas business and kill the jobs of their members and all Qantas employees.

Mr Sheldon said there was ''a determination to take whatever action is needed to protect decent paying jobs in this country … including taking strike action'.'

The Transport Workers Union wrote yesterday to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, calling for it to investigate Qantas. ''The ACCC should look into this new potential price fix to ensure it is not the wider travelling public being ripped off,'' Mr Sheldon said.