Britain’s largest union, Unite, today (Friday 18 May) warned Qantas airlines against employing ‘anti-union’ tactics to try and silence legitimate health and safety concerns following the introduction of its new 17 hour ultra-long haul flight between London Heathrow and Perth in Australia.
The new direct route, launched in March this year, means an average duty period of 19 hours for the 10 cabin crew on board each 787 Dreamliner aircraft serving the route.
Unite has raised concerns with Qantas that the cabin crew, who are all UK based, can only expect to receive an average rest of 25 hours in their hotel before commencing their duty on the flight home.
According to Unite, Qantas’ cabin crew UK base manager Dannielle Morgan has sought to dismiss concerns over fatigue as members of cabin crew taking time to ‘transition into new flying.’
Additionally, open and transparent conversations between Unite and its members on legitimate health and safety concerns have, according to the union, been described by the base manager as ‘unreasonable union activity’ with the manager drawing parallels with a dispute involving Australian unions that saw workers locked out in 2011.
Commenting, Unite regional officer, Lindsey Olliver, said: “While the future of flying is likely to centre on ultra-long haul operations, Qantas has a responsibility to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of its passengers and cabin crew continues to be of paramount importance.
“This simply cannot be compromised in the pursuit of profit for an airline with one of the best safety records in the industry.
“Qantas cabin crew must be provided with adequate rest down route between sectors to ensure they are fully able to complete their safety critical functions without impairment whilst operating on-board an aircraft.
“A key element to this must include a ‘just safety culture’ that allows crew to discuss safety concerns, wellbeing and fatigue, free from threats and the fear of reprisals.
“I urge Qantas in the UK to engage with Unite and listen to its workforce rather than resorting to bullying anti-union threats when dealing with legitimate safety concerns.”
Unite is calling for Qantas to implement more sensible rostering practices by stopping its current trip length ‘trial’ in favour of a 5-6 day trip pattern.