Federal MP Clive Palmer has indicated he won’t support law changes that would allow Qantas to be foreign-owned as the embattled carrier’s chief prepares to meet union officials for crisis talks.
Qantas chief Alan Joyce will face union officials in Sydney on Friday morning after revealing plans to axe 5000 jobs as part of a bid to cut $2 billion in costs over three years.
Unions at the meeting are expected to seek a commitment to minimise job losses and support employees through the transition.
Qantas’s hopes for a government debt guarantee appear to have been quashed with the federal government on Thursday backing away from any promises.
Instead, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government would support a “level playing field” for the carrier, which hints at a possible repeal of the Qantas Sale Act which limits foreign ownership levels.
Mr Palmer, whose Palmer United Party could dictate the fate of Qantas in the new Senate from July 1, has indicated his senators will block any such move.
“There will be no amendments to the Qantas Sale Act that our senators will vote for,” the lower house MP for the Queensland seat of Fairfax told the ABC.
“I’ve discussed it with all of them and there’ll be no amendments to the act and that’ll be it.”
The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) called on both major federal political parties to accept a compromise deal on the Qantas Sale Act.
A compromise would remove the 25 per cent limit on a single foreign investor, 35 per cent cap on foreign ownership, while retaining the cap on total foreign ownership at 49 per cent.
“The current political debate over the Qantas Sale Act is unnecessarily absolutist,” AIPA president Nathan Safe said in a statement on Friday.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver says he will seek a commitment from Qantas to share “relevant information” about the decisions that led to the job cuts at the meeting.
“I don’t think it’s proper that Alan Joyce stand up to the world and say that we’ve got to get $2 billion of savings and 5000 jobs,” he told ABC radio.
“It’s easy for him to start bandying about numbers, but what we’re talking about is 5000 livelihoods.”
He says it is premature to talk about industrial action at this stage.
Mr Joyce cautioned the unions against any industrial action which would only add “oil to the fire”.
He said unions and employees should lock arms with management and the federal government to find a solution to the carrier’s woes and “fight for a fair go” for Qantas.
“We need this to be resolved and we need this to be resolved soon,” he told ABC radio.
Mr Joyce said the government recognised there was a “distortion” in the airline market and it was working on a deal to help the carrier.
Government assistance should be extended to Qantas because it fit the required criteria.
“They recognise that they have to do something, we’re working with them on what that something is.”
Repealing the Qantas Sale Act “balances things up” but it’s not the only option.
“Once you have the Act repealed, we have to know that if there is a state-owned enterprise that they’re not going to have third problems.
“Both the Act and the third process need to be clear.”
Mr Joyce defended his position and management decisions but said he shouldn’t be the only one held responsible.
He said the company has been profitable the majority of the time he’s been CEO.
“I believe I’m the man the board believes in, and the man the shareholders believe,” he said.
“If that changes … they have absolute autonomy to determine who leads the company.”