Court orders Qantas planes off the ground

 
Kasmira Jefford
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QANTAS Airways said it would resume flights today, after an Australian tribunal ordered the airline and its unions to put an immediate end to strikes that left tens of thousands of passengers stranded around the world.

Fair Work Australia, an independent industrial umpire, was appointed by the government after Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce made the shock decision to ground 108 planes, cancelling almost 500 flights and affecting nearly 70,000 passengers by yesterday afternoon.

Qantas’s decision was a last-ditch attempt to end a prolonged, bitter battle with its unions over pay and working conditions, and its strategy to set up two new airlines in Asia.

The Australian carrier plans to cut 1,000 jobs and order aircraft worth $9bn (£5.6bn) as part of a makeover to salvage its loss-making international business.

The tribunal said Qantas and its three unions now have 21 days to negotiate a settlement. If those talks fail Fair Work Australia can then settle the dispute.

Qantas warned it would only resume operations if the tribunal ordered a permanent end to strikes. Unions had sought a temporary suspension.

The grounding outraged business leaders and the government, overshadowing prime minister Julia Gillard’s hosting of a summit of Commonwealth leaders in Perth, Western Australia. Gillard said yesterday she had convened the crisis hearing because of concerns about damage to the economy and had called on the airline and union to quickly end the industrial action.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the tribunal’s decision “provides certainty for Qantas passengers”.

“We will be getting our aircraft back up in the air as soon as we possibly can,” he said in a statement.