Will the fat cats turn?

Posted: October 30, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

The end result of the Fair Work Australia hearings last night was pretty much as predicted. Quantas has been told to get its planes back in the air and the unions told to go back to work. The two sides to the dispute have 21 days to resolve their differences although either side may apply for an extension.

What has not been resolved is the intractability and hypocrisy of a senior management regime that gleefully accepts obscenely large pay rises while essentially refusing to negotiate pay rises for staff. In the case of the pilots’ union, they aren’t even asking for a pay rise.

For the thousands of people stranded around the world by Alan Joyce’s heavyhanded descision to ground the entire Quantas fleet, this is no doubt a good decision and I entirely empathise with them. I dare say I would have been one very unhappy camper if I had been one of those stranded.

There is however a significant point that Joyce has won. Under these orders, the unions no longer have the right to take industrial action which places the position of power firmly on the Joyce side of things. This despite the fact that Joyce’s action on the weekend caused fair more disruption than any union industrial action of the past couple of months. While I would certainly not want to see a return to the bad old days when it seemed every other day some union or other was striking because there was too much butter on the sandwhiches or some similarly silly thing, the only power the working stiff really has is that of collective action. With that removed, their bargaining position immediately becomes that much weaker.

So far we have not heard any opinion from the institutional investors who hold such important blocs of shareholder votes. How are they responding to the damage that will surely be done to share prices in the wake of Joyce’s actions on the weekend? Are they going to continue to back their fat cat mate or will they start turning on him?

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