As you know last week it was announced that Cobham has signed a contract to extend its current QantasLink contract through to 2026. Whilst a 10-year extension is welcome news for Cobham in terms of future certainty and stability, the fallout from the announcement on engineering employees is apparently significant. The result is an approximate 10% reduction to Cobham line maintenance engineering numbers.
Once details of the contract extension were announced, the ALAEA requested a teleconference between the union, employee base reps and Cobham management to commence consultation over the decision and its effects. This took place last Thursday, 7th July.
We understand that Company management have already held briefing sessions in each affected base but, to recap in relation to staffing impacts, the Company have informed us of the following:
Hobart – base to close from 31 December 2016 – 3 staff affected
Staff reductions in other bases:
Darwin – 4
Perth – 6
Alice Springs – 2
Cairns – 2
On the teleconference management informed us that the process, including training to lift restrictions, will continue to around May 2017.
The next steps are that the Company will this week commence, across all Cobham bases in Australia (including those where no staff reductions are necessary), an Expression of Interest (EOI) process for any engineers interested in accepting a voluntary redundancy departure from the Company. This EOI process is likely to be open for about four weeks. A national EOI process will assist in future efforts if any staff are subsequently faced with the possibility of compulsory redundancy by, for example, helping to free up any opportunities for relocation.
It should be noted that the Company informed us that it is unlikely that any engineering staff seeking to leave by VR will be allowed to leave prior to the end of 2016 and it is likely that departures will occur progressively from January to May 2017.
Once the VR EOI process closes in August the Company are likely to take approximately another month to assess the response of how many, and which, employees may be prepared to accept a VR.
If insufficient numbers put in for a VR, then from September the Company is expected to commence a training needs analysis exercise for each engineer and review the needs and capacity for lifting licence restrictions via further training.
Subsequent to this, a selection process for determining how many and which engineers in each base may be facing a compulsory redundancy is likely to occur. This will be the trigger point for further direct consultation between the parties.
For members information, the recently approved Cobham Line Maintenance EBA imposes an obligation on the Company for ongoing consultation and also includes an obligation to consider the method of selection and measures to mitigate the adverse effects of any proposed redundancies. The EBA states the below wording at clause 188.8.131.52:
Subject to the operational requirements of the business, selection for redundancy should proceed on the basis of:
- (a)Retention of licence coverage and qualifications
- (b)Length of Service
- (c)Expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy will be considered
- (d)Transfer to another base if positions are vacant for which an Engineer is qualified, will be offered if practicable
The ALAEA will be seeking that full and transparent consultation occurs throughout the difficult process ahead and that all mitigation strategies to avoid compulsory redundancy are fully considered by the Company.
National Industrial Officer