I will intentionally add some passion to this notice after another week of frustration with many hours of work going into preparations to attempt to ensure that Qantas do not get away with taking away your leave unfairly and embarking on a new round of compulsory redundancies next year when the 737 reconfigs wind up. Members who want more leave burn and redundancies should not read any further.
The frustration I refer to is mainly with members who continue to pander to some Seniors, Supervisors, DMMs and Managers who all feel like their jobs are safe, particularly when they encourage corner cutting and other unsafe practices. These practices are usually linked to covering for a massive level of understaffing that exists in Sydney with so many LAMEs off on forced leave. I find it very hard to take numerous calls and emails from members explaining that Seniors and DMMs are leaving offices unattended as they do hands-on aircraft work or ride brakes on aircraft that can’t be towed because there aren’t enough staff. Unfortunately, some even think it makes a crew or section “look good” if they refuse to call people in for overtime as they allocate two employees to complete the work of five.
One area particularly highlighted recently after a serious towing incident was allocation of staff to tows. The damaged 738 (which most likely cost Qantas around a million dollars in damage and lost revenue) did not have a wing walker assigned to the side of the aircraft that collided. The AME and LAME PIC and driver are being blamed for not following procedures. The real issue here was understaffing, plain and simple, caused by too much leave burn. There was no available person to watch one side of the plane. Within days another LAME who reported an aircraft about to be towed without wing walkers was admonished by no less than five superiors for simply reporting the next potential accident. Had another accident occurred we would have again seen a LAME persecuted for not following procedures.
To prevent further towing accidents occurring because staff are not available, the OHS committee have endorsed a two-week trial of a checklist that must be completed before each tow to make sure sufficient people are assigned to do the job properly. The ALAEA fully endorses that trial. I am now hearing that word is being passed down from above that the checklist will not work. This message is completely flawed in its intent and reasoning. In my view some in Qantas management do not seem to want LAMEs to do anything properly, they just want corners cut to hide understaffing. Those who think the arrangement is inconvenient need to be reminded that a pre-tow briefing is already a mandatory Qantas procedure and a Senior LAME was demoted at Avalon some years back when he was made a scapegoat for a towing accident there when there had been no pre-tow briefing. If you have to wait for others to arrive before you commence a tow in accordance with procedure, wait. The subsequent delay caused by a plane being late at the gate will only add a concrete record to the growing number of reasons why leave burn must end.
There has been a fair bit of talk around the traps with members wondering what we are up to in regards to leave burn. Aside from watching on as many LAMEs participate in their own demise, preparations are being made to get the first court application in. This one goes back to a power I exercised under a Fair Work Entry Certificate I hold which allows me to enter premises to investigate suspected breaches. Qantas allowed me to come in and chat to members but when I sought access to key documents which I am allowed to view and copy, they denied me access. We will now seek that the documents be released and that fines be applied to Chris Tobin and Nick Saunders as the managers who denied access.
Qantas will fight to prevent access to these documents. They will say that they have too many staff and are allowed to have leave burn. They will point straight to the workplace, where corners are being cut left right and centre, and say that there isn’t a problem, our planes are getting out and on time performance is unaffected. Despite this, as a holder of a Fair Work Certificate, I only have to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion of a breach to access the documents. In order to do that, with thanks to many good members, the ALAEA can rely upon many documents that have already been forwarded to the office. They are incorporated in this draft affidavit that is yet to be vetted by our legal advisers which members should read. A second supporting affidavit is being prepared by Qantas Councilor Bradley Cox. So far we have uncovered the following –
- During redundancy consultation in 2014, Qantas Engineering declared that they only needed 7,760 hours of effective labour each week from the SAM workforce.
- Qantas are now running leave burn so that only approximately 7,760 hours of effective labour are available each week from the SAM workforce.
- In early 2015, Qantas Engineering entered an MOU to supply as a minimum, 8,940 hours of effective labour each week from the SAM workforce.
- It is not uncommon for more than 10,000 hours of work to be given in a week to the SAM workforce.
- At the terminals, you will often see over 10 hours of work to being allocated for two persons to complete on a two-hour transit.
Some members may be wondering why we have waited so long to get this matter to a court room. I hope it is now evident that it was wise for us to wait until the real effects of too much leave burn could be documented in Qantas’ own records. With access to the other MOUs and documents, the case proper could be much stronger. In the mean time I ask members to please, put aside any personal desire to impress your boss by pushing planes without wing walkers, leaving the office when your job is in the office, completing 10 hours of planned work in 25 minutes or thinking you are a team player by opposing measures put in place by OHS committees because there isn’t enough staff. Abandoning good LAME principles will ultimately land you in a career advisory centre.