Jetstar plan September go-slow

A meeting of four hundred mainly Jetstar and Qantas pilots has been encouraged to "not to do the airline any favours" next month - setting the scene for a go-slow that could cause delays for passengers across the network.

In an unprecedented show of unity, pilots from across the country packed into Sydney's Wolli Creek Rowers Club this afternoon to express their anger over the employment arrangements proposed by Jetstar as part of its expansion into Asia and Europe.

The media was excluded from most of the meeting, but a source close to the pilots said some had called for a strike as soon as tomorrow.

Officials from the Australian and International Pilots Association dissuaded the pilots from doing this - it would be considered illegal industrial action. But the source said the pilots were encouraged to "do what they could within the law".

This included refusing to show up early for pre-flight planning needed to ensure flights depart on time.

It is understood they are also considering refusing to work outside their scheduled hours to fill in for sick colleagues or to meet increased demand, and refusing to take on more than a minimum load of fuel, so that if there is an in-flight delay as a result of weather or air traffic, flights will have to be diverted.

"We don't want to do anything that will cause delays to passengers," a Jetstar pilot who declined to be named, said.

"But we do want Jetstar and Qantas to stop undermining our wages and conditions and opportunities to progress through the company by putting pilots into shelf companies where our EBA (enterprise bargaining agreement" doesn't apply."

Under the Jetstar's plans to expand into Asia, pilots will be transferred to the airline's new Singapore-Melbourne route where - despite flying Australian-registered A330 aircraft into Australia - they will be employed on private contracts under Singapore laws.

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Singapore and Vietnam-based pilots would also be transferred to Australia where they would not be employed under the Jetstar Australia employment agreement, but through a "new Jetstar Group company" that would only be required to pay the award rate.

The pilots passed a unanimous motion declaring this strategy to be "an offensive attempt by Jetstar management...to pit pilots against each other to secure their careers". They also declared that they "no longer have confidence Bruce Buchanan as the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Jetstar group".

Every pilot was provided with printed extracts from the Fair Work Act explaining what actions they could take without being considered to have taken illegal industrial action.

Under the heading, "Industrial action does not include the following", was listed "the employee did not unreasonably fail to comply with a direction of his or her employer to perform other available work...that was safe and appropriate for the employee to perform".

Jetstar's head of corporate relations, Simon Westaway, said there had been rumours of a go-slow by Jetstar pilots for some time, but the airline's on-time performance figures remained among the highest of any Australian airline.

"We've got a good, tight airline that is committed to the best service delivery to customers," Mr Westaway said.

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