The ongoing dispute between Qantas subsidiary Network Aviation and its pilots has resurfaced, as the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) announces a 24-hour work stoppage beginning at 00:01 on Thursday, February 8, 2024. This marks a renewed attempt by the pilots to address their grievances, as negotiations with Qantas have reached an impasse.
Thursday Set as the Decisive Day
Today, AFAP has officially notified Network Aviation, a Qantas Group airline based in Western Australia, of a 24-hour work stoppage starting from 00:01 on Thursday, February 8, 2024. The AFAP has been actively seeking a new enterprise agreement to replace the expiring Network Aviation Pilots Enterprise Agreement 2016.
Negotiations between the pilots, represented by AFAP, and Qantas have been ongoing since the expiration of the previous agreement in 2020. With talks reaching a stalemate, the threat of strike action has become a reality. Chris Aikens, Senior Industrial Officer at AFAP, highlighted that Network pilots’ pay and conditions lag significantly behind those of their counterparts at Qantas and comparable airlines.
Aikens stated, “The AFAP has earnestly negotiated and attempted to reach an agreement with Qantas management. However, the company remains unwilling to reconsider its rigid wages policy established under the former CEO. We apologize for the disruptions this action will cause to the traveling public in Western Australia, as well as FIFO mining staff and other workers reliant on Network and QantasLink flights scheduled for Thursday.”
More than 90% of Network Aviation pilots, who are AFAP members, are actively involved and eager to advance negotiations toward a resolution. According to a Network Aviation spokesperson, the airline is disappointed with the stop-work decision and is developing plans to minimize disruptions to customers if the union proceeds with industrial action.
Lack of Progress Over Three Months
The decision to halt work for 24 hours is not an idle threat, as witnessed in October last year when pilots staged a one-day strike. The October strike resulted in the cancellation of nearly half of the Qantas regional network in WA, affecting around 500 passengers. In November, another strike was called off when both parties agreed to return to the negotiation table. However, it appears that despite three months passing, AFAP and Qantas remain at an impasse, leading to renewed unrest among pilots and the looming stoppage on Thursday.
At the core of the issue is the demand by Network pilots to be paid on par with Qantas domestic 737 pilots. Although this demand was somewhat revised in November, with the AFAP spokesperson stating that pilots were “simply asking for something that is affordable and sustainable for the company and its workforce.”
Network Aviation operates over 300 weekly flights, encompassing regular passenger services on aircraft with the QantasLink tail and charter operations under the Network Aviation brand. The airline maintains a fleet of around 30 aircraft, including Fokker 100s and Airbus A320s, which forms the basis of the pilots’ comparison with Qantas 737 pilots.