Rex Saab pilots vote to take industrial action

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Victor Pody shot this Rex Saab 340B VH ZLA
Victor Pody shot this Rex Saab 340B, VH-ZLA

Rex Saab 340 pilots have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of taking industrial action against the airline, following a near four-year-long disagreement over pay and conditions.

The Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) said the action would start from Tuesday 28 June and include a ban on loading extra fuel prior to flights and not wearing uniforms.

Rex had previously told Australian Aviation the actions of the union were “beyond belief” and added its latest offer was “substantially better” than one accepted by the union on behalf of QantasLink pilots in 2021.

On Wednesday, the AFAP said more than 90 per cent of its Saab pilot members voted to take a range of eight actions, including work bans and potentially work stoppages of up to four hours each.

It added the ballot lasted a week with 93 per cent of its members who were eligible to participate voting online.

“In addition to action concerning the wearing of uniforms, pilots will adopt a ban on loading extra fuel prior to flights, where the primary purpose for loading the extra fuel is to negate the need to refuel at the destination airport,” said the AFAP.

“The AFAP remains committed to reaching an agreement and is disappointed that we have had to take this action.

“Unfortunately, Rex pilots have been attempting to negotiate a new Enterprise Agreement since early-2018 (ahead of the 30 June 2018 expiry of the Regional Express Pilots’ Enterprise Agreement 2014).

“AFAP members employed by Rex as Saab turboprop pilots are disappointed that negotiations over a new enterprise agreement have not progressed satisfactorily with the company over four years.”

Speaking of the ballot, Rex previously said it was “disappointing” that the union had applied to the Fair Work Commission for permission to begin industrial action, particularly given that it had accepted a “substantially” lower salary offer for its QantasLink pilots in late 2021.

“Just last September, the AFAP agreed to a 2 per cent pay rise in 2021 and 2022 for QantasLink pilots,” Rex deputy chairman John Sharp said.

“Rex on the other hand has offered its SAAB pilots a 5.1 per cent pay rise from 1 July 2022, plus significant catch-up payments worth another 8 per cent once the business is profitable again.

“Rex is the only airline that has not retrenched any of its pilots and it has stood by them through the difficult COVID years.

“We believe that they will stand by the company during this period where recovery is nascent and the company is still fragile.”

The airline also accused the union of spreading “malicious, misleading, and deceptive” information to its members regarding the latest round of negotiations.

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