Every decent industrial dispute needs a villain, but it seems Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s efforts to cast unions as corporate wreckers are backfiring badly.
With 30,000 workers, 11 unions, an iconic red and white kangaroo and the perennial headline-grabbers of aircraft safety, Aussie jobs and stranded holidaymakers, occasional high-profile industrial disputes are a fact of life at Qantas.
The airline has traditionally responded to union campaigning with a straight bat – make any claim and the airline would shut the issue down, convinced that responding would only inflame the situation.
But managing his first showdown, Joyce has opted for beat-up over hose-down. He’s grabbed the microphone off the unions, cranked up the amp and is ripping through his song-list at high volume – “A new spirit of Australia”, is followed by “Qantas pilots are greedy” with an encore of “I’m a really nice person and they’re trying to kill me”.
New South Wales political history was being written on Saturday night. Now it is being rewritten with key Labor figures refusing to accept that the scale of the debacle came down to their own blind pursuit of power.
Former NSW premier Morris Iemma, along with his renegade treasurer Michael Costa have taken to the media claiming it was the party’s failure to allow the privatisation of electricity (read, influence of the unions) that was at the root of Labor’s demise.
A more sober analysis of the poll data suggests the opposite may be true, the reason Labor got hammered was that 39 per cent of people who identify themselves as Labor voters could not bring themselves to vote for this government. And for many of these voters, the power sell-off was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
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