Qantas’s decision to lock out its staff looks to have been a qualified success. The slow bleed industrial action will now cease, and the issue will come to a conclusion (one way or another) in the next few weeks.
Despite the fact that their course of action has left me stranded, i am pleased they have exercised their right not to provide air services. Their brand was being damaged by uncertainty already, and it is reasonable to risk greater brand damage to end a certain slow bleed.
As a stranded passenger, i have been reading the coverage with interest. This morning’s wrap of views by the news website lacks any cover of my most acute frustration – the lack of alternate services.
Ultimately, Qantas is able to risk their brand in this way, and the unions are able to risk their member’s jobs, because of the lack of competition in the Australian air services market. Singapore airlines, for example, would love full and unfettered access to the Australian market.
The rents Qantas accrues as a result of these restrictive regulations are divided between labour and capital, according to their relative bargaining positions. When bargaining power shifts – as it has thanks to Orwellian sounding fair work act – it is precisely in these industries that we should first expect to see conflict.
While changing these labour laws is probably also a good idea, the bigger picture is that a protected industry will be prone to conflict. The solution is to open the skies. Then everyone would have to act with greater consideration.
The workers would have greater ability to change employers if Qantas really is giving them a bad deal, Qantas management / capital would risk losing far more by (temporarily) withdrawing from the provision of air services, and all customers (not just us stranded ones) would be better able to get where we are going.
Finally, the Government would not have to get involved in fights that cannot be won.
It should make us all uneasy that crucial management decisions are going to be taken by third parties in three weeks if capital and labour cannot reach agreement. Shareholders own the company – it is theirs to ruin.
These restrictive regulations are a tax on Australian users of air services, which is divided between capital and labour. The present chaos ought to make it clear that it is flyers who pay that tax. The Government could most usefully solve this problem, to the ongoing benefit of all Australians (excepting Qantas shareholders and their employees) by allowing greater competition in the Australian air services market.