When Alan Joyce wakes up every morning, there is always the slim chance that several hundred people travelling in a metal tube branded with the Qantas insignia will have plummeted thousands of feet to their doom.
The CEOs of the Big Four Banks don’t have that problem. They fear falls of a less lethal kind. Wall Street plunges don’t kill. And unlike plane wrecks, there is always the chance of a rebound.
This might seem a dramatically ghoulish way to portray the inherent risks of two fundamentally different businesses, but it’s worth considering in light of Qantas’s paltry net profit of $43 million in the six months to December. Compare that to the $3 billion or so of the major banks and it’s like a Cessna to an A380.
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Here’s an elaborate conspiracy theory. In a dark corner of a scungy pub in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville, socialist double agent Alan Joyce is downing schooners of Tooheys New with Transport Minister and Left faction operative Anthony Albanese as they toast their collective success in making Labor relevant again.
The Qantas chief executive may have unwittingly done more than anyone to get the Labor Party off the mat by bringing on a massive, nation-stopping industrial brawl which let the ALP remind the voters exactly what it stood for.
For many voters, that’s not necessarily a positive thing. In the minds of many people Julia Gillard’s handling of the Qantas dispute will have only reinforced their view that Labor remains the captive of union self-interest in an age when a minority of Australian workers is unionised. These people aren’t going to vote Labor anyway.
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How would you feel if you were the Qantas CEO and people were telling you loudly that they loved Virgin Australia as you were walking through the airport? For some, Alan Joyce is a hero for taking on the unions, but for others he is a person who should hear firsthand the distress suffered by those Qantas passengers stranded during the shutdown he ordered.
Sadly, the debate for many has become centred on a particular individual. The CEO of a company should command wide ranging respect from all the company’s stakeholders. It’s certainly not enough to be loved by your management peers at other companies. They’re only good for giving you a new job if you leave the old one because you have lost the moral authority to succeed in your current position.
History will judge Alan Joyce as a CEO, but in the meantime Qantas management must stand collectively in being fully accountable for their recent decisions and for presenting a vision to get Qantas back on track as the great iconic company that it has been.
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What price forgiveness? Will a free plane ride make you take Qantas back into your heart? Will you once again feel a tickle of pride and fondness as the falsetto notes of ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ rise from those precocious young throats?
For most people, the answer will be: “Hell yeah, and I’ll take one of those fluffy kangaroos home for the kids!”. We can’t sustain moral outrage for long, especially in the face of compensation.
The Qantas ‘crisis’ is a numbers game from start to finish, and it’s a game they’ll probably win.
Contempt ran deep for the old IR club with its protected unions and compulsory arbitration, spawning the short-lived “new right”, animating the HR Nicholls Society, and stiffening the resolve of a new wave of Liberals intent on dismantling a century of state-controlled employment relations and labour market rigidity.
The anti-club’s high water mark was, however, its ultimate undoing: John Howard’s WorkChoices and the removal of the no-disadvantage test from individual work contracts.
This over-reach led to the 2007 defeat by Kevin Rudd and to the current Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott declaring at the 2010 poll that WorkChoices was: “dead, buried, cremated” - in that order! It wasn’t the end of the Liberal recant.
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An industrial dispute has two sides – employer and employee. The Qantas dispute had a very important third side – the innocent travelling public. How they see the dispute, and which side they blame, will be important in the backwash.
If they blame Qantas, the airline will have problems regaining, let alone improving, its share of the market. If they blame the unions, Qantas will have a strengthened bargaining position.
Did Qantas have any alternative to the extraordinary decision to ground the fleet? It was facing continuous scattergun strikes, and the unions involved were not showing any intention to try to come to a compromise. The grounding tactic was clever, in that it forced the government to bring Fair Work Australia into the game, with the result that the guerilla strikes were ended.
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Much of the public commentary around the Qantas dispute has been so undergraduate that you would think it had been authored by the people at Occupy Wall Street. But it is Qantas itself which invited much of the negative coverage by not thinking through its tactics last week ahead of the dramatic events of the weekend.
This dispute has at its centre a pretty simple question – does Qantas management have the right to manage Qantas? Or should Tony Sheldon from the Transport Workers Union have veto power over everything from how many staff the airline employs, when and where its aircraft hangars are built, who maintains its fleet, to whether it is allowed to expand into Asia?
I am not an aviation writer but at a guess I would say that as a former senior executive at Aer Lingus and the successfully expansionist boss of the fledgling airline Jetstar, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce knows a bit more about running airlines than Tony Sheldon.
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Alan Joyce seems to have copped the ire of just about everyone because he was the bloke announcing Saturday’s decision to ground the Qantas fleet.
The decision was understandably unpopular with those stranded travellers who had their plans thrown into disarray – and we can certainly all understand their anger and sympathise with them.
But for every person affected by the 48 hours or so that Qantas wasn’t flying, there will be many more Qantas travellers over the next 21 days who have finally got certainty with the Fair Work Australia decision to disallow industrial action. Moreover, those thinking of flying in the future will be able to book with Qantas with certainty.
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First Alan, congratulations on your pay rise, and congratulations on Qantas’ profit in the last financial year. But sadly, I can’t congratulate you on your decision to take your bat and ball, and your aeroplanes, and go home.
Let me make this clear, you had a lot of options to resolve this dispute, but you picked the nuclear option, the one that caused the most disruption to passengers and the tourism industry.
On Saturday you chose to become the CEO that stops the nation, grounding Qantas’ fleet and stranding thousands of people from outback doctors, foreign leaders, and Spring Carnival punters.
Jesus motherloving Christ. If Alan Joyce is making a late bid for Twat of the Year 2011, then he’s eating daylight on his competitors. On Saturday the Qantas CEO shut down worldwide operations of one of the planet’s biggest airlines, in an over-reaction that made King Lear look pretty chill.
Like one of those seasoned chooks you get all ready for roasting, some things come pre-satirised. On Friday, Joyce asked shareholders at Qantas’ annual general meeting to give him a pay rise of 71 per cent, from under $3 million a year to about $5 million. They did. The next day, he shut down their company entirely, because of the “extreme demands” of workers. First prize, Alan. Believe.
Where unions have to give 72 hours notice of any action, Joyce gave zero hours. He stranded 68,000 people worldwide, upended the plans of tens of thousands more, and lost an unquantifiable number of future bookings.
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Update: In the very early hours of this morning Fair Work Australia terminated the chaotic industrial action between Qantas and the unions.Qantas says they expect flight to be grounded till 12noon today. With Alan Joyce telling the media flights may be back in the air by early afternoon today. Almost 70,000 passengers have been stranded in Australia and around the world.
“It’s good to fly Qantas,” said Tony Abbott, meaning to be heard, as yesterday afternoon he stepped from an aircraft at Canberra airport.
Actually the plane belonged to QantasLink, a related combine of three regional airlines, diverted from Mildura to pick up passengers in Melbourne.
But it was the closest any of us got to a Qantas service yesterday. And Tony Abbott is the closest that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has to a friend in Australian public life at the moment.
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Somewhere in California a student is having a laugh. His name is Alan Joyce and he holds the Twitter handle @Alanjoyce. A number of people, of whom I am one, wrongly added that name to tweets on the grounding of Qantas (If you’re so proud of taking the “hard decision” how about making one about your pay @alanjoyce ? #qantas).
Fellow tweeps pointed out the error and corrections were quickly posted. I even apologized to Mr @alanjoyce, somewhat pointlessly as the Stanford student understands full well that he does not run an airline any more than the former Hawthorn coach (Alan Joyce) does.
The reason my @alanjoyce tweet got a life of its own was that so many people apparently agreed with the sentiment and retweeted it. Some did not agree but retweeted it too.
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If you’re willing to sleep around, don’t be surprised if your partner gives you the cold shoulder.
This week the nation cried foul at the thought of Qantas, our beloved flying kangaroo, shooting through to Asia.
First of all, Qantas hasn’t done a runner. As CEO Alan Joyce says, the company is looking to shed 1000 of its 35,000-strong Australian workforce and establish two news carriers in Asia to increase its global competitiveness.
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Reading the massive Qantas wraparound ads in the papers yesterday, you could be excused for thinking Qantas was set to employ 11 year old junior lifeguards as cabin crew.
The spin-heavy ad campaign had the tagline “There’s a new spirit”, and was a backdrop to the announcement that Qantas would restructure itself by cutting 1,000 of its 35,000 staff, while also peparing to set up a new premium service in Asia.
Qantas has long relied on the feelgood factor in its marketing. You know that fantastic feeling when you touch down at an Australian airport after a trip overseas? Qantas has successfully bottled and sold that emotion. It’s our country. Our airline. You bloody beauty. Last night, however, many people voiced concerns that our airline was slipping away. And boy, did Qantas CEO Alan Joyce come out swinging in its defence.
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