THE WEST AUSTRALIAN
Tuesday, 04 December 2012 09:13
Most of Western Australia's fly-in, fly-out workforce and thousands of other QantasLink passengers in the state could be stranded after pilots overwhelmingly endorsed unlimited strike action over a pay dispute.
More than 85 pilots belonging to the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots recently voted to stage work bans and stoppages in a bid to bolster their demands against employer Cobham Aviation Services.
Cobham, which bought out National Jet Services, is contracted by QantasLink to run most of its services in WA, the Northern Territory and northern Queensland. The proposed strike would take place across the three regions.
TWU spokesman Rick Burton said the union had not yet decided when to call the strike, and would continue negotiating with Cobham.
The major sticking point was the rate for a position known as first officers, who earn half of a captain's rate.
Mr Burton said the TWU was seeking 65 per cent of the rate but Cobham was offering 55 per cent.
"The mining companies should get the Greyhounds (coach services) ready," Mr Burton said.
"This is definitely not an idle threat."
Mr Burton claimed Cobham pilots flew nearly three-quarters of all passengers to and from WA's regional areas, and he believed it unlikely smaller operators such as SkyWest and Skipper's Aviation would be able to cover the service for delayed passengers.
QantasLink flies to the State's major resources centres Karratha, Newman, Paraburdoo, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie.
A spokesman for Cobham would not reveal whether it had a contingency plan in the event of a strike.
"We remain committed to the bargaining process and believe that industrial action being initiated while discussions are ongoing would be unreasonable and without justification," he said.
"We wish to remain engaged and work toward a constructive and mutually acceptable solution and do not see how protected industrial action is warranted or assists the process."
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