November 10, 2011 / 10:27 AM / 8 years ago

Australia pilot union goes to court over Qantas dispute

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian pilots union has launched court proceedings challenging an order to end industrial action at Qantas Airways (QAN.AX), though the union said it remains fully committed to negotiating an outcome with the airline.

Stranded Qantas passengers look at a Qantas Airbus A330 plane as they wait for their flights at the departure gates of Perth Domestic Airport October 31, 2011. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Qantas said it remains hopeful of reaching a new agreement with unions by November 21, after it grounded its fleet nearly two weeks ago in a last-ditch bid to end a dispute over pay, conditions and job security.

The federal government intervened as a result of the grounding, and workplace umpire Fair Work Australia ordered an end to the industrial action.

The Australian and International Pilots Association argues its industrial action, which consisted of pilots wearing red ties and making announcements on flights about their dispute, did not disrupt Qantas operations.

It said it was taking the court action to prevent a precedent “which may give an employer the impression that it can conduct itself in a similar manner to Qantas to bring about a calculated result which deprives its workforce of any rights during their bargaining process.”

The government said it believes Fair Work Australia’s decision to terminate the industrial action would be upheld by the court.

“We don’t believe any legal action will succeed,” Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans said on Sky TV.

Qantas said it has attended meetings with the Australian and International Pilots Association, Transport Workers’ Union and Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association since the industrial action was halted on October 31.

“Qantas remains hopeful of reaching a new agreement with the pilots’ union, licensed engineers’ union and Transport Workers’ Union within the 21-day negotiation period,” it said in a statement.

The pilots’ key demand is that Qantas should pay pilots on any flight sharing a Qantas flight code the same rate as Qantas pilots, which would mean the company would have to pay some pilots on its budget airlines or its planned offshore airline the same as Qantas pilots.

Qantas shares closed down 3.1 percent at A$1.58, around where they had traded for most of the afternoon, slightly weaker than the broader market.

Reporting by Miranda Maxwell and Sonali Paul; Editing by Ed Davies

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