Bloomberg News

Qantas Wins $788,000 Verdict Against Union for 2009 Strike

July 22, 2011

(Updates with judge’s comment in third paragraph.)

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Qantas Airways Ltd. won a A$727,000 ($788,000) judgment against the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia after a judge ruled a 2009 work stoppage was illegal.

Federal Court Judge Michael Moore today ruled Qantas was entitled to compensation for costs it incurred when baggage handlers belonging to the union stopped work for four hours to protest the hiring of contract workers for some operations.

“No submission was made that the TWU did not have the capacity to pay the amounts ordered,” Moore wrote in today’s 90-page ruling. “It will have the significantly undesirable consequence of depleting funds which are, in effect, the funds of the membership.”

Qantas, Australia’s biggest carrier, is now in contract talks with its engineers and long-haul pilots, with both groups having voted to strike if a deal can’t be reached. The pilots are pushing for more pay with in-flight announcements explaining their demands. The engineers held a one-minute work stoppage last week to keep their strike option open.

Most strikes in Australia are illegal unless union members support them in a vote ordered by mediator Fair Work Australia, which also regulates issues including minimum wages. Once a ballot is completed, unions must start the industrial action within a month or lose the right to strike.

Qantas shares rose 2.1 percent to A$1.92 at 1:34 p.m. in trading on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The March 30, 2009, protest by the Sydney-based carrier’s baggage handlers breached the Workplace Relations Act, Moore said in a May 13 ruling.

‘Compensate Qantas’

The baggage handlers’ work stoppage at Sydney International Airport forced flights to leave without luggage and caused gridlock in loading areas.

“That led directly to certain losses for which the TWU should be ordered to compensate Qantas as a method of remedying the effect of the unlawful conduct,” Moore wrote.

Seth Tenkate, a spokesman for the transport union, declined to immediately comment. The union was drafting a statement, he said.

Moore also ordered six union officers and employees to pay Qantas a total of A$18,000, with individual penalties ranging from A$1,500 to A$5,000.

The case is Qantas Airways Ltd. vs Transport Workers’ Union of Australia. NSD340/2009. Federal Court of Australia (Sydney).

--Editors: Suresh Seshadri, Garry Smith.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net


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