find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
FWA to blame for Qantas dispute

FWA to blame for Qantas dispute

While the aviation sector has a long history of large industrial disputes, the introduction of the Fair Work Act (FWA) is the reason for the latest dispute between Qantas and the Australian…

While the aviation sector has a long history of large industrial disputes, the introduction of the Fair Work Act (FWA) is the reason for the latest dispute between Qantas and the Australian Licenced Engineers Union, the Transport Workers Union and the Australian and International Pilots Union.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly about Qantas's controversial decision to ground its domestic and international services, Middletons workplace relations and safety partner Alice DeBoos said that while the FWA is not to blame for the large-scale industrial action which came to a head at the weekend, it was the FWA which enabled the job-security dispute to arise in the first place.

"I don't buy into the argument that this [industrial action] is somehow a reflection of the Fair Work Act. I think the provisions relating to protected industrial action are basically the same as they were under the Howard Government," said DeBoos.

"The industrial action side of things hasn't changed ... Where legitimate criticism of the Fair Work Act comes in ... is that the Fair Work Act enables unions to bargain over these job-security clauses and that's what's different.

"Prior to the Fair Work Act, these types of clauses were not permitted in an enterprise agreement, so you couldn't have this argument."

Questioning Australia's industrial relations system and how such a dispute reached the level it did, People & Culture Strategies managing principal Joydeep Hor said the Fair Work legislation needs to be examined.

"Why did it have to come to what it came to in order for sanity to prevail, and why is the system not allowing for a more constructive approach to the resolution of these matters?" asked Hor, adding that if the laws had the right in-built mechanisms, the dispute would not have caused as much consternation to so many people.

"When it comes to good faith bargaining, which of course was the creation of this legislation - the Fair Work Act - it just seems ironic that in circumstances where, for the first time, there was a mandated obligation on unions, employers and employees to bargain in good faith, you would have thought ... [it] would be less likely to see this kind of outcome."

While describing Qantas's decision to ground its fleet as "extreme" and "very risky", DeBoos said the move constituted a much-needed win for Qantas, represented by Freehills.

"Ultimately, you have to view [the decision] in the wash-up, and that is that they have achieved exactly the result they wanted to achieve. Their gamble - and this was the only way they could achieve an end to the industrial action - has paid off and it has paid off in spades," said DeBoos, adding that the decision of Fair Work Australia has put Qantas in an "incredibly advantageous position".

"The unions, while they may not admit this, will not want Fair Work Australia deciding or arbitrating an outcome, because I find it very difficult to see a circumstance where Fair Work Australia would be allowing in a job-security clause," she said. "The unions will be using these 21 days to salvage the best agreement they can out of Qantas."

With respect to the Government's intervention into the dispute, Hor noted that the timing of such intervention will now come under scrutiny - an issue for which the Prime Minister Julia Gillard is now facing mounting pressure, with calls to introduce laws allowing earlier intervention.

"The questions that will be asked [are] should they have been more empowered early on, is there some alternative model altogether [and], notwithstanding Australia's deep history in confrontational industrial relations, whether there's a need for an alternative approach," said Hor.

- Briana Everett

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

FWA to blame for Qantas dispute
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Jackie Rhodes
Dec 12 2017
Report sheds light on LGBTQI inclusion in law firms
A recent report has revealed the varying perceptions on LGBTQI diversity and inclusion in the Austra...
Women in business
Dec 12 2017
Annabel Crabb headlines Women in Business Forum
Political journalist Annabel Crabb has appeared at the Coleman Greig Lawyers Women in Business Forum...
Dec 11 2017
Warm welcome for new district court judges
Three practitioners who were appointed as district court judges in WA have been congratulated by ...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...