Negotiations between Qantas Airways and three unions have broken down.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline has negotiated for months with both the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and that while they preferred to resolve the dispute through negotiations, it was now time to let Fair Work Australia bring the matter to a close.
Later, the carrier confirmed that it was also unable to reach an agreement with the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA). Qantas said that neither the airline nor the ALAEA sought a 21-day extension to negotiations.
On negotiations with AIPA, he said: "We did make some progress in negotiations with movements on both sides. However, in the end, we were unable to reach a new agreement for our 1,600 long-haul pilots."
When contacted, AIPA president Captain Barry Jackson said: "No agreement could be reached during these 21 days in spite of how we were willing to compromise."
He added that the association had asked for a 21-day extension to negotiations but was turned down by Qantas.
The two parties will now be forced into arbitration by the Australian industrial court.
"I'm very disappointed with the situation. A negotiated solution would definitely be much better than one made by the umpire," said Jackson.
He added that the association was focused on ensuring job security for its pilots, so that they will not be made redundant by Qantas's business plans and for them to "get access to growth in the Qantas group".
Joyce said that the airline will work with the union to reduce the number of matters that need to be arbitrated on.
Regarding the negotiations with TWU, Joyce said the airline made a "generous" offer which included reasonable increases in pay and conditions, protections on the jobs of existing employees and for Qantas to maintain the flexibility it needs to run the airline, but the offer was rejected by the union.
"We did make some progress but we simply cannot agree to all of the union's demands. We cannot give in to demands that we hand over control of parts of the airline to the union," he said.
Joyce added that the union had asked the airline to "break the law" and agree to use only companies that have enterprise agreements in place with TWU and to write this into a legal document.
"We simply could not agree to that," he said.
The deadline to resolve the disputes between Qantas and unions representing pilots, engineers and ground staff expires at midnight local time on 21 November.
Under orders issued by Fair Work Australia, if no agreement is reached, binding arbitration will take place under its control.
Qantas had earlier told the Australian media that it is very much committed to the negotiations and is hopeful that it can reach a settlement on 21 November.
The Oneworld member grounded all its domestic and international operations on 29 October in protest of on-going industrial action. Over 447 flights were cancelled and 68,000 passengers were affected.
The grounding comes after several weeks of occasional industrial action by members of the three unions, which has resulted in flight cancellations and disruptions that have cost Qantas at least Australian dollars (A$) 68 million ($72 million).
Source: Air Transport Intelligence news