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CHOGM 2011: “Gillard intervenes over Qantas industrial action”
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CHOGM 2011: “Gillard intervenes over Qantas industrial action”

World leaders are in Perth on the west coast of Australia this week to take part in the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

Steph Carter, 20, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Queensland, reports on the crisis caused by Australia’s biggest airline cancelling flights into and, crucially, out of the country.

The announcement made this weekend that Qantas grounded all domestic and international flights has caused a stir for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is currently in Perth for CHOGM.

The aircraft carrier also said it would lock out all staff involved in the industrial dispute by 8pm Monday night, an extreme move that is the result of prolonged industrial action taken by three trade unions. This recent decision made by Qantas has affected thousands of passengers, including 17 Commonwealth Heads of State, who were booked on Qantas international flights.

In a bid to resolve the issue, Ms Gillard yesterday indicated that the Australian Government had requested an immediate hearing of Fair Work Australia to terminate the industrial action between Qantas staff and trade unions. Those trade unions involved include the Transport Workers’ Union, the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers’ Association and the Australian and International Pilots’ Association, who collectively represent more than 6,000 Qantas staff.

In remarks made to reporters today, Ms Gillard said that the Government’s industrial umpire Fair Work Australia began dealing with the dispute late last night, before adjourning proceedings until today.

‘The government in this matter is seeking to bring industrial action to an end and to have the dispute resolved so that we can proceed with certainty with our iconic airline Qantas- proceeding properly and with circumstances where employees and Qantas know what the future holds for them’.

When asked if the Federal Government is supporting a termination or only a suspension of the industrial action, the Prime Minister emphasized that she would like to see an end to industrial action through legislation and reconciliation processes. Although trade unions are requesting a 90-day suspension of the dispute in order to continue negotiations around pay and working conditions, a suspension may result in substantial further damage to the Australian airline.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that the move yesterday to ground the entire Qantas fleet was the only way to bring an end to the industrial action, but spectators claim that it was a pre-meditated move by the airline boss to involve Government and bring an end to union action.

When asked how the Government is helping the stranded 17 Commonwealth Heads of State booked on Qantas flights, Ms Gillard said that leaders have already ‘made alternative arrangements’ with the assistance of the CHOGM taskforce.

In moving forward on the matter, a primary concern for the Prime Minister includes the ‘implications’ for the ‘national economy’. The Qantas dispute brings an already interesting CHOGM weekend to an explosive end.

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About me:

“I’m a student based in Brisbane, Australia. I am currently in my final year of undergraduate study at the University of Queensland, studying Development, Journalism and International Relations and will be commencing a Masters of International Studies in 2012.

“Aside from my study commitments, I lead a hectic life! I’m passionate about aid and development and am involved with World Vision Australia’s national youth movement ‘Vision Generation’. I also work part time in the travel industry (which might explain my love of travel) and when I have spare time, you can find me playing my piano.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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