Twelve days out from Christmas, Jetstar pilots have voted to take take industrial action this weekend after other airline staff walked off the job amid a pay and safety dispute.
It means a total of 70 flights are cancelled across the weekend, causing delays, disruptions and changes to travel plans for thousands of passengers.
Jetstar is willing to come to the table with pilots and the union after they walked off the job, but not at any cost.
“This situation is very, very sad. We absolutely want to do a deal that rewards our people for the great work that they do every day but we’re not going to do that at any cost,” Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.
He said it was not clear how many pilots had walked off the job over the weekend.
Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) – a total of 80 per cent of Jetstar pilots – voted last week to take protected industrial action for the first time since the airline was founded 15 years ago.
However, the AFAP “promised it won’t be taking any action between 21 December and New Year”.
Baggage handlers and ground crews walked off the job on Friday at the major airports around Australia in two-hour blocks on Friday during the morning and afternoon peak hour.
Despite Jetstar defending it’s “robust safety management systems”, SafeWork NSW slapped Jetstar with an improvement notice on Thursday night as up to 250 staff went on strike on Friday in a pay and safety dispute.
“Ground crews are at risk to health and safety from serious injury such as being crushed, ingested or other, when working around operational aircraft,” the notice seen by AAP states.
— TWU Vic/Tas (@TWUVicTas) December 13, 2019
The AFAP says the union’s Jetstar pilots will undertake four-hour work stoppages on Saturday and Sunday and a range of lower-level bans from December 14 to 20.
The company says customers travelling from December 13 to December 20 can request a full refund prior to flying.
Jetstar canceled 44 services on Saturday and 26 on Sunday.
Mr Evans said the Australian Federation of Air Pilots were demanding a 15 per cent pay rise.
However, the AFAP claims they want a three per cent raise for pilots and the other figure is based on “inaccurate” costings of other conditions.
“If they’ve accepted the three per cent pay rise that’s fantastic; let’s call off the action and get back around the table,” Mr Evans said.
“But the fact they’re taking action would suggest what they’ve got on the table is much more than that.”
Jetstar wants a resolution but will only consider one when the stoppage is called off, he said.
“We have realistically been left with no alternative but to take this action. It is not something we take lightly,” union executive director Simon Lutton said on Saturday morning.
The pilots’ action comes after baggage handlers and ground staff stopped work on Friday at Sydney Airport, Melbourne’s Tullamarine and Avalon airports, and in Brisbane, Cairns and Adelaide.
The budget airline rejected workers’ demands for pay increases, minimum hours on the job and safety improvements.
— Jack Boutros (@jackboutros1) December 13, 2019
Jetstar said the disruption had not badly affected flights on Friday because they had minimised fallout by cancelling 30 services in advance.
Workers who walked off the job on Friday have pledged to do it again next Thursday should their demands not be met.