Skills balanced in Qantas redundancies

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Skills balanced in Qantas redundancies

Skills and experience are in the spotlight after Qantas announced this week that it planned to retrench maintenance positions, as part of its company-wide job reduction strategy in response to SARS and the Iraq war.

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Skills and experience are in the spotlight after Qantas announced this week that it planned to retrench maintenance positions, as part of its company-wide job reduction strategy in response to SARS and the Iraq war.
 
Qantas is seeking expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy, as part of a plan to retrench 240 maintenance positions. Voluntary redundancies would only be considered in the context of retaining an appropriate level of skilled and experienced workers, a Qantas spokesperson told WorkplaceInfo.
 
A further 120 maintenance positions would be lost through attrition and conversion to part-time work.
 
The redundancies are part of a strategy to shed 1,700 positions due to SARS, the Iraq war and the global economic downturn. Fewer people were flying, so changes to the Qantas fleet were necessary, the spokesperson said.
 
Reaching targets and skills
 
Qantas hoped expressions of interest would reach the redundancy target of 240 in the nominated skill areas. If this didn't eventuate and voluntary redundancies were no longer possible, Qantas would have to work with the relevant unions to meet the target.
 
Conversely, the first 240 maintenance staff 'to put up their hands' wouldn't automatically be granted a redundancy pay out, the spokesperson said.
 
Redundancies had to come from the nominated skill areas to ensure that the staff who were being made redundant didn't have key skills and experience.
 
Some 9% of maintenance management positions would be lost under the job shredding strategy, while 4% of wage and salaried positions would go. Regardless of where the job losses occurred the retention of key skills and experience would be uppermost in Qantas' mind, the spokesperson said.
 
The apprentice factor
 
But while Qantas is making staff redundant it is hiring more apprentices. According to the spokesperson, 200 apprentices had been inducted this year, bringing the total to 500.
 
The notion that more apprentices would jeopardise the quality of the maintenance service was rejected by the spokesperson. Qantas hired more than 6,000 maintenance workers - there were considerably more regular staff than apprentices, the spokesperson claimed.
 
Qantas was continuing to invest in maintenance in Australia, for example the Brisbane 767 heavy maintenance facility would be completed by 2004, which would allow more 'in-sourcing'.
 
The 200 apprentices inducted this year were part of the plan to meet this commitment to maintenance, the spokesperson claimed.
 
Progressive redundancies
 
In addition to getting the right skill balance, redundancies would be progressive until the end of June to ensure there was a consistent approach to the completion of current projects.
 
Reducing the impact
 
Qantas had done everything it could to reduce the impact of redundancies by 'in-sourcing work' to the capacity of its facilities, aircraft turn-around times, engines and components, the spokesperson said.
 
The reduction in flying had enabled a reduction in out-sourcing. 'We were always looking for ways to bring work back in-house,' she claimed.
 
Union's request
 
Australian Workers Union secretary Bill Shorten said 104 AWU workers would be affected by the redundancies. He claimed that allowing AWU workers to express an interest in a redundancy program to avoid forced redundancies was not enough. He also wanted Qantas to:
  • allow workers who did not want to take redundancy to be protected from job losses;
  • only accept redundancies in areas where the AWU agreed to redundancy numbers in specific areas of engineering and maintenance; and
  • provide training programs that enabled workers to transfer their skills to busy workshop areas. 
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