Qantas pilots challenge enforced end to industrial action in courts

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The Australian pilots union is challenging a decision by Fair Work Australia last year to terminate all industrial action at flag carrier Qantas Airways in the country's Federal courts.

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) said that its actions, which involved wearing coloured ties and telling passengers their side of the dispute with the airline about pay, conditions and job security via the public address system, was "not disruptive".

This was "doing no harm to the economy", it added in a statement.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce grounded the airline in October in the wake of mounting industrial action by the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) and the AIPA.

That led to intervention by the government via the industrial tribunal, which told the airline and the unions that they had to reach an agreement or face binding arbitration.

Qantas subsequently reached an agreement with the engineering and cabin crew unions, but has had to go for arbitration with the AIPA and TWU.

"Of the four parties involved in last year's unfortunate dispute, AIPA was the only one not to disrupt the flying public through industrial action," said Qantas pilot and AIPA spokesman Nathan Safe in a statement.

"In the end, of course, Alan Joyce's catastrophic grounding dwarfed all previous actions. However, AIPA made it clear throughout 2011 that our struggle was against damaging management policy and not loyal Qantas passengers who are the reason we put on the uniform. That is why we did not take stop-work action last year, and that's why we will not take stop-work action this year either, even if we win this case."

Safe reiterated that there would not be any disruption to Qantas services if the pilots won the case.

"We want Australians to continue flying with Qantas. If that's to happen we need management to commit to improving the airline and upholding the core values that have made it great for nearly a century. We can't afford management that pretends no damage was done by its actions in 2011. We can't afford management that claims the grounding was somehow 'good for the brand'," he said.