Qantas chief Alan Joyce will not rule out sending more jobs offshore if able to do so under legislative changes being considered by federal parliament.
The airline is committed to slashing 5000 jobs as part of a $2 billion cost-cutting program, and as the coalition government proposes changes to the Qantas Sale Act, Mr Joyce will not forecast how many additional Australian positions could be lost.
“I’m not going to rule anything in or anything out,” he told a Senate hearing in Canberra on Tuesday.
The airline boss faced repeated questioning about the impact on jobs of changing the Act, which would allow greater foreign ownership of Qantas’s domestic arm.
But he said the airline has done no such modelling and refuses to deal in hypotheticals.
“We have no more plans on that,” Mr Joyce said when asked of the jobs impact on different divisions of the company including maintenance, flight crew, catering and management.
Mr Joyce’s position at the Qantas helm, which he has held since 2008, came under fire from Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who cited a drop in share price of more than 50 per cent since his appointment.
“If it was in the interests of shareholder value … for you to resign would you do so?” Senator Dastyari asked.
Mr Joyce insisted that he has the support of the Qantas board.
“The important thing is to have the support of the shareholders and I continuously meet with the shareholders,” Mr Joyce said.
A refresh of the Qantas board is the answer to the airline’s problems, not legislative changes to the Act, Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association federal secretary Stephen Purvinas told the hearing.
“I would suggest that the government stop dealing with the current board of management until such time as they replace the CEO, they replace the chairman and they put someone with aviation background on the board,” Mr Purvinas said.
He said the board is made up of bankers and people with corporate backgrounds, who lack an understanding of aviation issues.
Furthermore he said Qantas has purposefully lost money to back the federal government into a corner to change the Act.
“Qantas are intentionally creating this drama and all of the hype around them struggling internationally so that they can suck you guys into changing the Qantas Sale Act,” Mr Purvinas said.
The Senate economics committee is due to report on March 24.
The ACTU forecast the number of Australian Qantas job losses would stretch to a five-digit figure under changes to the Act.
“If you add up the predictions that we have from affiliates generally in relation to Qantas group, a figure of 10,000 is obtained,” union assistant secretary Tim Lyons told the same hearing.
He said staff morale at the airline was “sombre”.
“The immediate impact if this bill was to go through … would be a massive offshoring of the heavy maintenance base at Brisbane,” Electrical Trades Union spokesman Matthew Murphy said.
Maintenance operations at Sydney and Melbourne would also be sent offshore, he added.
Mr Joyce labelled as “fear mongering” union claims that Qantas safety standards would be compromised if the Act was amended.
Both onshore maintenance operations and those based overseas had to be approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, he said.