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Qantas makes record profit, sacks graduating apprentices

The AMWU is backing 20 Qantas graduating apprentices whose future job security has been ripped away for short-term cost-cutting despite the airline this week posting a record half-year profit of almost $1 billion.

The AMWU and partner unions are demanding Qantas find full-time work for the 20 who were issued late last year with termination notices, becoming the first aircraft maintenance engineers in decades to complete training without secure full-time positions by the airline.

Under pressure in the Fair Work Commission, the airline extended their employment to March and scrambled together a mix of Jetstar jobs, 10 fixed-term contracts in Brisbane and four part-time jobs in Perth.

But that half-baked fix has caused huge disruption and uncertainty to men from Sydney and Melbourne with young families and other personal commitments, with at least four still left jobless.

A potential solution is if the airline pushes ahead with a plan to bring back in-house the maintenance work on equipment and plant that supports it’s fleet, which had been outsourced. More detail is expected to emerge in FWC discussions listed for today (Friday).

“These terminations by Qantas makes no sense whatever if it really is committed to retaining a viable engineering workforce so it can service its new generation aircraft fleets within Australia,” said AMWU Assistant National Secretary Glenn Thompson.

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Money man: Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce announcing the airline's half-yearly profit had soared by 234 per cent.

Mr Thompson said the Qantas stance contravenes it’s union agreement, risks wasting more than $5 million invested in the men’s training and undermines the airline’s own future ability to service it’s aircraft.

It comes as the aviation industry expects the Asia-Pacific region to be desperately short of aviation engineers in coming years.

“It’s incredible that with an ageing workforce, Qantas is prepared to offload  younger, highly-skilled workers it has just invested in – these people are the airline’s future,” Mr Thompson said

The AMWU is acting jointly with the Australian Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union.

Mr Thompson said this was the second full year of Qantas apprentices to be trained to the upgraded AQF4 qualification framework, a recognition that the airline would have to keep constantly renewing topline skills if it was to service modern aircraft.

A 2015 industry report by the Australian Research Council found that there will be a 30 per cent shortfall in global aircraft maintenance capacity within a decade. It said if Australia wants to fill the  Asia Pacific shortage, we must quickly re-build our maintenance capability, including training.

The 20  apprentices range in age from early 20s to 42.

“I started at Qantas because I have a passion for airlines. I love the industry and don’t want to have to leave,” said Michael Angel, 42, who will have to leave his pregnant partner in Sydney if he takes up a position offered in Brisbane for 18 months.

Richard Catulong has worked for Qantas for 11 years, choosing to enhance his career by building on his trade as a trimmer with an aircraft engineer qualification.

“I’d be devastated if I had to leave the industry. I was in it for the long term,” said Mr Catulong, 32, who has a mortgage on the family home but no job offer as a trimmer or engineer.

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Let down: some of the new aircraft maintenance engineers whose security has been jettisoned by Qantas.

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