Government ‘sitting on its hands’ in Qantas dispute


Opposition leader Tony Abbott has lashed the Federal Government for not intervening sooner to resolve the Qantas dispute.

Mr Abbott said the Government could have used ministerial powers under the Section 431 of the Fair Work Act to have the management's action terminated.

''I think the public has had a win, but it is no thanks to the Gillard government,'' he said.

''The government didn't do anything, so many people have been sitting in terminals because the government has been sitting on its hands.

''Julia Gillard wrote the Act – she should know what's in it and she should have used the powers that she gave the government to sort out very serious industrial disputes like this,” Mr Abbott said.

He said that the Labor government has been slow to act because it is compromised by its close relationship to the unions.

Ms Gillard labelled Qantas’ recent action to ground its fleet – which clearly took the government by surprise – as ''extreme''.

''On Friday Qantas was reassuring that they were negotiating the dispute and obviously they were doing that because they saw the prospects of getting to a negotiated settlement, ''she said.

''Then on Saturday at 2pm with very little warning to government or any member of the travelling public, Qantas grounded the planes.''

She said it was a ''silly suggestion'' that Labor had failed to act because it feared offending its union allies.

Fair Work Australia resolved to terminate the industrial action being waged by both Qantas and the three unions with which it has clashed – the Transport Workers Union representing ground staff, the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association and the Australian and International Pilots Association.

The parties have 21 days to work out an agreement, otherwise they will be forced into mandatory arbitration and the industrial umpire will resolve the dispute.

Whatever happens, neither side is permitted to take any industrial action from this point, meaning certainty for passengers.

However, the TWU has signalled it may appeal the ruling on the termination.

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