Government ducks decision to guarantee Qantas jobs

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Government ducks decision to guarantee Qantas jobs

The Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile has refused to say whether then Government will only approve the takeover of Qantas if jobs and maintenance facilities in Australia are protected.

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The Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile has refused to say whether the Government will only approve the takeover of Qantas if jobs and maintenance facilities in Australia are protected.

The Government was reported yesterday as giving that guarantee, but Vaile has since backed away from such a commitment.

The Government is facing a severe political difficulty over the Qantas takeover. To approve it with few, or no, conditions would enhance its pro-business credentials, but may also see a significant loss of jobs and rural services in the short term as the airline is readied for a profitable sale or floating on the stock exchange.

In a series of media interviews Vaile has basically refused to say that the Government is assessing the situation, but has dropped strong hints that Qantas continuing its rural services are a key factor in Government approval of the deal.

'A matter for the market'

Vaile is also leader of the National Party. Allowing foreign competitors such as Singapore Airlines access to the lucrative trans-Pacific route to the USA has also been specifically rejected.

The Qantas takeover consortium, led by Macquarie Bank, has indicated that it has 'no plans' to shift jobs offshore, but Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon said over the Christmas break that no jobs were guaranteed - including his own.

Vaile, who is also the transport minister, told the ABC this morning that no decision has been made on whether the Government will attach specific conditions to the bid.

'On the commercial side of things, that's a matter for the market,' he said. 'It's a bit difficult to put overly restrictive requirements on there, but certainly it would be in the national interest to maintain a high level of skill in the aviation industry in Australia.'

Unions to lobby Govt

The Transport Workers' Union (TWU), backed by the ACTU, will lobby the Government to protect the jobs, working conditions and entitlements of all existing workers affected by the take-over.

Acting NSW State Secretary, Wayne Forno, said that if the Government is 'serious about protecting the national interest then it will ask the consortium to make sure that jobs, working conditions and entitlements are not lost'.

'The TWU will be talking to all Federal Government members as soon as parliament reconvenes in February to make sure that all workers who have made Qantas the lean and efficient business that it is today will be protected,' Forno said.

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