Qantas Returns to Air After Labor Tribunal’s Order

Posted October 31st, 2011 at 2:50 am (UTC-5)
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Australia’s national airline is back in the air after a labor tribunal ordered worker’s unions to end a job action that shut down the airline and to return to the negotiating table.

Qantas Airways’ first flight took off early Monday afternoon, about 12 hours after the tribunal’s back-to-work order. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline will work quickly to clear a backlog of passengers stranded at airports across Australia and around the world.

The tribunal acted on a request from the government less than two days after Qantas grounded its entire fleet in response to a walkout over pay and working conditions. The unions represent pilots, licensed engineers, baggage handlers, ground workers and catering staff.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed Qantas return to the skies, saying the shutdown not only inconvenienced airline passengers, but threatened the country’s important travel industry.

The tribunal said Qantas and the three labor unions now have 21 days to reach a deal or face binding arbitration.

The unions had wanted the tribunal to suspend rather than terminate the strike, to allow the job action to resume if further negotiations fail to yield a deal.