At the time of writing, the Union’s dispute with Qantas appears likely to go to arbitration – a process that could drag on for quite some time. It certainly will if Qantas management continues to dig in on every significant issue as they have for the last few months in their negotiations with us along with the pilots and the engineers.
We always knew that Qantas would play hard-ball in this dispute, but the total shut-down of October 29th still came as a shock. This was not just an attack against the employees and their unions, it was a frontal assault on all Qantas customers and on the Federal Government which had been working behind the scenes to promote a settlement.
Many people have quite reasonably compared it to the Chris Corrigan attack on the Maritime Union of Australia back in 1998. Of course, on that occasion, Corrigan was working hand in glove with the Howard Government in staging his waterfront revolution.
Perhaps it would be wise to reflect on the fact that, thanks to a united union movement and an independent judiciary, the MUA is still there, while Mr. Corrigan is today a bit player.
A more direct comparison might be with mining giant Rio Tinto which has been involved with union-busting activities over the past two decades, including tactics such as lock-outs and attempts to casualise their workforce.