Thousands of passengers at airports around the country are gearing up for a long wait as 38000 Qantas baggage handlers and ground staff walk off the job.
One in ten Qantas passengers, or 8400 people, are expected to have their travel plans delayed, Qantas spokesman Olivia Wirth said on Friday.
“They are being delayed, they are being inconvenienced,” she told the Seven Network.
“It should be the travelling public that we focus on.”
Work will stop at all major Australian airports for one hour from 8am (AEST).
Five international flights and nine domestic flights were delayed, and two flights between Sydney and Melbourne had been cancelled, Qantas said on its website at 7.30am (AEST).
It’s the second strike by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in a fortnight.
“The workers don’t want to inconvenience the public but it is very important to them and their families that we get this agreement through,” said Mick Pieri from the TWU.
The walk out is part of an ongoing campaign of protracted industrial action by baggage handlers and ground staff over pay and conditions.
“We have been stonewalled all the way,” Mr Pieri said of the six months the union has spent trying to negotiate with the airline.
Mr Pieri defended the union’s decision to strike over a long weekend when thousands of people are travelling to AFL and NRL Grand Finals, while many families are heading away for the school holidays.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he told the Seven Network on Friday morning.
The besieged airline has faced strike action on a number of fronts, including by pilots, engineers and baggage handlers.
TWU secretary Tony Sheldon said Qantas had failed to make a firm offer for eight months.
“Qantas employees have seen their CEO get a 71 per cent pay increase and board members’ pay rocket to at least $250,000 each, but ground crew are being told that casual staff will have to wear a ten per cent pay cut and no chance of moving to permanent work,” he said on Friday.
He accused the airline of employing “a US-style union-busting strategy.”.
“The TWU urges the airline to abandon its current strategy and enter into meaningful negotiations rather than stonewalling,” Mr Sheldon said.