Qantas, pilots both claim win in Fair Work arbitration

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Both Qantas and its pilots union claim that they have won in the arbitration of a labour dispute which was linked to the temporary grounding of the airline in October 2011.

Australia's Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ruled against a claim by the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA), which sought to extend conditions for Qantas pilots to all other pilots in the Qantas Group, including those employed by its budget subsidiary Jetstar Airways.

In welcoming the decision, the Oneworld carrier says that the ruling gives it the flexibility required to compete in the global airline industry.

"The dispute was always about Qantas retaining the right to manage its business and retaining the flexibility we need in a competitive industry like aviation," says Qantas's group executive for government and corporate affairs, Olivia Wirth.

"The unions' claims that would have significantly impacted management prerogative were rejected."

However, AIPA says that Qantas has lost in the decision because the FWC has kept the bulk of the previous enterprise agreement intact and will also have to renegotiate the agreement in 2014.

The union adds that by forcing it into arbitration, Qantas lost the opportunity to work constructively with its pilots.

"Pilots were prepared to offer significant productivity gains, but because management was unprepared to have meaningful negotiations, these have fallen by the wayside," says AIPA acting president Nathan Safe.

The dispute with AIPA is one of three other disputes that led the airline to ground its fleet for two days in October 2011 and threaten to lock out staff. That forced the Australian government to step in and force all the parties into arbitration.

Qantas has already completed arbitration with the two other unions involved in the 2011 dispute, the Transport Workers' Union and Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association.