As the grounded airline navigates the COVID-19 crisis, approximately 450 regional pilots have become the first large, unionised cohort at Qantas to accept a two-year wage freeze.
“These agreements provide much-needed confidence to the airline and our regional pilots as we continue our recovery from this very trying period,” Qantas said.
However, the new industrial agreement reached with the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) is retroactive to 2019, therefore the wage freeze period has already ended, and the pilots will receive a 2% hike in 2021 and 2022.
The arrangements were supported by more than 90% of the pilots who voted.
According to a union representative, the union endeavoured to collaborate with Qantas and was “pleased to have arrived at a realistic result for the QantasLink pilot groups.”
“The pilot councils anticipate that negotiations will resume in the second half of next year, in what we think will be a better negotiating environment,” she said.
It is the first pay agreement to contain the salary freeze since Qantas stated in May that the move would be implemented as part of the next round of enterprise bargaining talks.
A Qantas representative praised the agreement with pilots.
“These agreements provide much-needed confidence to the airline and our regional pilots as we continue our recovery from this very trying period,” he said.
The industrial agreements must still be ratified by the Fair Work Commission before Qantas can distribute $2000 to each of the 450 pilots as part of a bonus system that lasted between 2015 and 2019.
AFAP also represents pilots at Jetstar’s budget subsidiary and is in discussions with management on a new industrial agreement for that cohort.
AFAP and Jetstar have had a poor relationship in the past – in December 2019, pilots went on strike during one of the busiest times for air travel – and a source said talks this time were still difficult, but the need for the salary freeze was accepted on all sides of the table.
The wage freeze extends to executives as well, with the airline’s pre-tax losses during the pandemic now exceeding $5 billion.
Nonetheless, according to the company’s annual report, the take-home pay of Qantas’ management team was $7.3 million in the fiscal year 2021.
By Joe Cusmano