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Qantas pilots to ad lib announcements in protest

19 july 2011, 18:00
International pilots for Australian airline Qantas said Tuesday they would begin their first industrial action in 45 years this week by using the carrier's in-flight announcements to push their agenda, AFP reports.

Some 1,700 long-haul pilots voted earlier this month to take their first industrial action since 1966 following stalled contract negotiations, holding out the possibility of a two-day strike as a last resort.

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) told Qantas on Monday that the action would comprise pilots using the in-flight public address system to carry their own messages rather than those authorised by the airline.

"The message will essentially be just: 'This is your captain speaking, I'm proud to be a Qantas pilot and I want to continue to be a Qantas pilot'," AIPA spokesman Anil Lambert told AFP.

The messages, which will be heard about twice on a long-haul flight from Sydney to London and set to begin on Friday, will direct travellers to a campaign website for more information, he said.

Qantas said the announcements were not expected to cause flight delays or cancellations.

"Qantas' priority is always to our customers and we are disappointed that the pilots' union would intentionally disturb customers' in-flight experience to make a point during an industrial dispute," the airline said in a statement.

Pilots have been negotiating new wages and conditions with the "Flying Kangaroo" for months and want a new clause in their contracts to stop Qantas from potentially outsourcing pilots to cheaper bases in Asia.

Qantas pilot Nathan Safe said the announcements would be brief and positive and were designed to raise awareness about pilots' fears over job security.

"We know that the biggest wake-up call we can send the current management team is to blow the whistle on their plans to strip a proud Australian icon down to its bare bones and shift operations to Asia," he said.

The airline has rejected the pilots' claims about outsourcing.

It said the union was attempting to force all Qantas subsidiaries -- including its low cost carrier Jetstar -- to pay the same high rates as Qantas and was demanding pay increases and free flights.

While admitting that its international business is unprofitable and needs to be restructured, it said the pilot demands would drive up airfares, cost jobs and make Qantas unprofitable.

The industrial action comes as the airline prepares to see two right-handed engineers work with their left hands only and a one-minute national strike as part of industrial action by engineers.

The veteran technicians will only use their left hands to fix planes for a week and all 1,600 Qantas engineers will down tools for 60 seconds on Friday over a protracted dispute about wages and conditions.

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