Qantas chairman Richard Goyder said the proposed reintroduction of multi-employer collective bargaining will not work because it ignores how different companies in an industry have different needs.
Speaking at the airline’s AGM, Goyder argued that it would have a “massive” impact on productivity, growth and the ability to pay staff better.
“We fear that lowering the bar on mandatory arbitration and enforcing multi-employer collective bargaining would effectively lead to centralized wage setting,” he said.
The bill is expected to go through the Senate by December 1st. Significantly, the TWU, the most powerful aviation union, has already backed the move.
It is believed that the new laws would focus on low-wage industries and crucially include the ability for workers to strike on behalf of workers at other companies.
However, Goyder added that it was welcome that ministers appeared willing to make concessions and asked that time be taken for the consequences to be “really discussed”.
It comes after Chief Executive Alan Joyce said negotiations with multiple employers had made it impossible for a company like Jetstar to launch and adding new rules could “take us back to the ’80s”.
Joyce said Jetstar “changed the airline market” by introducing efficiencies that enabled prices as low as $35.
“We founded Jetstar with the goal of democratizing air travel and enabling millions of people to travel for the first time,” he said.
“If there had been negotiations with multiple employers at the time, I’m not sure that would have happened, and a lot of other things wouldn’t have happened.”
It follows last year’s federal court ruling that Qantas wrongly outsourced 2,000 ground handling tasks. TWU argued this meant employees were worse off because they were without the long-standing operating agreements that had been negotiated with Qantas.
The union’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, later told The Australian that multi-employer collective bargaining must include the potential to strike for all workers. Otherwise companies will fight back demands for better working conditions.
“It’s not about an uncontrolled upward spiral of wages and conditions,” he said.
“It’s about saving the economy from full fragmentation, where workers have no power (and) where the companies that employ them have no commercial power to dictate their future.
“It’s not good for economic growth. It’s certainly not good for making sure workers get a share of the economy.”