Home » WA pilot strike ‘increasingly difficult’ for miners and regional travellers

WA pilot strike ‘increasingly difficult’ for miners and regional travellers

Key Points
  • Australian Federation of Air Pilots union members working for Network Aviation and QantasLink in WA are on strike.
  • The pilots have been negotiating with Qantas Group for 18 months to replace a pay deal that expired in 2020.
  • Further strike action on Saturday, Sunday and Monday will extend the rolling strikes to six consecutive days.
Thousands of regional airline passengers and fly-in, fly-out workers face three extra days of disruptive flight cancellations due to industrial action within the airline industry.
Pilots from Qantas subsidiaries in Western Australia will strike for a total of six days over stalled wage negotiations.
The Australian Federation of Air Pilots said its members working for Network Aviation and QantasLink in Western Australia began their strike on Wednesday.

The union initially announced a two-day work stoppage before increasing it to three days and then six days, saying “we are seeing Qantas at its worst showing total disdain for its pilots and the travelling public.”

The protected action comes a week after pilots walked off the job for 24 hours on Thursday sparking the cancellation of 35 Network Aviation flights.

It’s the third time regional travellers and workers flying on Network Aviation have been impacted by the ongoing dispute, with resources companies saying some workers had been forced to remain on site hundreds of kilometres from their homes.

Network Aviation and QantasLink pilots in WA will strike over stalled wage talks. Source: AAP / Supplied

The federation’s senior industrial officer Chris Aikens said pilots felt they had no other option and were angered by the airline walking away from negotiations.

“We are dealing with an employer who steadfastly refuses to provide terms and conditions of employment enjoyed by other Qantas Group pilots across the country to Network pilots in WA,” he said.
Qantas Group said 25 Network Aviation flights would be cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday.
The airline has brought in three Qantas Boeing 737 aircraft and charter aircraft from other airlines to carry passengers on those days.

“The contingency plans mean that more than 80 per cent of Network Aviation customers will travel on the same day they were booked to travel,” a spokeswoman said.

Plans were being developed to deal with the other days and customers on impacted flights were being offered fee-free changes to their tickets or refunds.
Network Aviation chief operating officer Trevor Worgan said the airline was hoping to get most customers to their destination on the same day.
“The strike action over the next few days is clearly aimed directly at the WA economy by targeting flying to and from mine sites across the state,” he said.
BHP said the strikes were making life “increasingly difficult” for the thousands of people who work in WA’s iron ore industry.
“We are working with airlines to minimise impacts on our people and operations,” a spokesman said.
“We have contingency plans in place and have restricted business travel to the region to essential personnel only.”
Woodside Energy said it was managing the impacts on its workforce in Karratha and via Learmonth.

“Contingency plans are in place to minimise disruptions, including re-booking onto alternate services, charter services and overnighting,” a spokeswoman said.

Fortescue Metals Group said it was working with Qantas Group to minimise disruptions to its Pilbara operations and contingency plans were in place.
The pilots’ federation and Network Aviation had been attempting to forge a pay deal for 18 months to replace the previous one which expired in 2020.
“We remain keen and willing to meet with the company’s management to arrive at some improvements in terms and conditions for the lowest-paid jet pilots in the Qantas Group,” Aikens said.
Network Aviation said the pilots had previously been offered and rejected pay increases of more than 25 per cent, plus yearly three per cent increases, new allowances and greater roster protections.
The union rejected the assertions.
The airline last week made an intractable bargaining application to the Fair Work Commission to force a new enterprise agreement with its pilots to break the deadlock.
“We’ve been clear that we cannot offer more,” Worgan said.
Network Aviation pilots also walked off the job over pay negotiations for 24 hours in early October, causing more than 40 flights to and from regional towns and mine sites to be cancelled.
The airline, which is wholly owned by Qantas, is WA’s premier charter company for the mining industry and operates hundreds of flights a week.

More than 90 per cent of its 250-plus pilots are members of the pilots federation.