Tuesday November 29, 2011

G'Day From Downunder

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce (left) with Mike Bowen

Gee, I must say it's good to be back and a big thanks to all who sent me welcome back emails, it was really nice of you.

OK now put a few bob in the gas meter and get the kettle on and we can have a chat and a cup of tea.

In past writings, I have stated many times that I love how some people really take control of their chosen professions. People who take pride in their work.

Well this week I want to share with you the story of Irishman, Dubliner Alan Joyce, the Qantas boss and Chief Executive Officer.

Boy oh boy has he had the fight of his life taking on the militant unions of Australia.

To explain the background, let me go back to a couple of years ago when I spent some time with him doing a story for Irish Connections Magazine.

Alan then told me of the increasing threat of the growing Asian and Middle Eastern markets to Qantas, and that some of the Asian and Middle East Airlines were being subsidised by their governments.

He said it was a case of looking to the future and if Qantas couldn't compete they would not be able to survive.

Now remember in spite of Qantas competing against the subsidised airlines Alan has been able to show with shrewd business practice that has he been able to keep Qantas afloat (flying) in tough times, and that they are also in profit.

Now back to today's situation.

The union's demands included increase in salaries and job guarantee, and the demands also included Qantas aircraft not to be serviced overseas.

They are worried that a thousand jobs might be lost if aircraft are serviced overseas.

But on the other hand it is better to lose a thousand jobs due to competition and modern science than to lose an airline altogether.

In fact, Aer Lingus serviced many other airlines in London for years and there was no outcry. So what's new now?

With the new aircraft these days they don't have to be serviced like in the old days. Much like your car now gets serviced once or twice a year, or if you are like me and drive a BMW you only have it serviced once a year, and that can be done anywhere in the world. It doesn't have to be done at my local dealer either. Aircraft nowadays are much more sophisticated and need less service.

Anyone with a few scruples at all in their head would look to address the threat of competition and try to put a plan together to be competitive.

Anyone who understands simple maths, would also understand that cost cutting would logically be part of that plan.

Alan was responsible for setting up Qantas's low budget airline (Jetstar) some years ago, and he understands the dynamics of low cost airlines.

Therefore, Alan went about doing his job of being competitive in the best interest of everyone to make sure that Qantas would survive and could compete in this low cost market.

However, no matter what you do in this world, you can't please everyone and that certainly applied to the unions in this case as Alan soon found out. The unions decided to wage a dirty war on Alan and his proud and iconic Qantas.

First, they introduced rolling strikes. That was then followed up by death threats, to him and to some of the executive staff. Then the unions went as far as telling the public not to fly with Qantas and to choose other airlines only.

To me that is the same as a dog biting the hand that feeds it. Therefore, the feud went on and on with the unions causing havoc to the travelling public and the Qantas brand.

We the public could not be guaranteed that any time we were due to travel we would actually leave the ground.

This unpredictable situation went on and on until Alan decided that enough was enough and the public at large and Qantas had been bullied to the point of it was time to fight back.

Therefore, Alan and the Qantas Board made one of the most courageous decisions that has ever been taken in Australia against the militant unions - he grounded the entire fleet worldwide. A decision that had to be made. A weaker man would have allowed the unions to ride shotgun over Australia's number one airline.

Alan may not be much taller than five foot three, but in this instance he was ten feet tall after taking on the might of Australia's militant unions.

As I said, he may not be a tall man but in this case, there wasn't a taller man in Australia. The result of Alan's actions was the Fair Work Australia tribunal gave both parties twenty-one days to resolve their differences, with a further twenty-one days if no result was forthcoming.

At least now the fleet is now flying and not being interrupted by union leaders who don't understand that Australia is already overpriced in everything including airfares.

Realistically this is not the time to be looking for wage rises in such a competitive and subsidised market and especially with a round two possibility or a further World Financial Crises.

Alan did what the government did not have the guts to do, and that was to challenge the might of the militant unions. The media then jumped on board and went on a muck-raking mission delving into his private life.

Alan's salary is now known by every man woman and child in the country, along with the most intimate details of his private life. I know of no other CEO who has not committed a crime, who has been hounded as much as Alan has, and all because he is trying to keep Australia's airline competitive and profitable.

Alan's actions didn't go down well with the government, as Australia has the Labour party in power and is well supported by the unions.

It is well understood that they kow-tow to the union factions and also to the Green party, who hold them by the proverbial.

The Labour party are hanging in there narrowly with the majority of only one seat in parliament, so union and Green support is very important to them.

The Australian government is handcuffed to the unions, as they are only in government because of alliances with the different factions of the unions and the Greens.

Alan then had to face a government senate enquiry and cop an assault of ignorant questions from Senators who were acting for faceless men, to justify his actions.

Again, Alan was more than up to the task of justifying his heroic decision, which proves that it's not the size of the dog that matters, it's what the dog can do when it comes to a fight; and Alan is well up for a fight, with no shortage of guts, and in the end that's what a man is judged on.

I have great admiration for brave men and if ever a brave man showed that he could take on a fight, it is Alan Joyce.

Ironically the Irish were a major part of setting up the unions in Australia. Alan is a true believer in unionism as he has said on many an occasion himself.

I hope that now commonsense will now prevail and Alan can get back to doing what he knows best and that is running a profitable and successful airline - long may Qantas be the safest airline in the skies.

Until I talk to you again be good to those who love you and Slainte from Downunder.

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