I’m not surprised that the Qantas debate has taken an ugly turn.

In case you missed it, last week, two Sunrise hosts were caught in a crossfire between pro-Qantas reform Jeff Kennett and more conservatively-minded Mark Latham.

I’m all up for lean, modern companies which can compete in the global market.

Though it’s disappointing to see politicians indulging in the same, narrow-minded, cheap rhetoric, rather than wrestling with impact of that decision and looking at ways to minimise the impact on 5,000 people whose jobs are in question.


The Real Issue.

I’ll go as far as saying that the main concern of people whose jobs are under threat is not keeping their current job.

If they had the option, some would prefer to keep their current job at QANTAS, but they’d also go work for Virgin, Etihad or Singapore Airlines (or go laterally into a different industry) – if the benefits were attractive.

In other words, the elephant in the room is the job cuts, but underneath it is the real question – how can we make sure people don’t get stranded without a job?

Why aren’t Sunrise hosts asking this question on live television?


Why Isn’t Joyce?

Listening to Joyce, I’m left with the impression that his plan to mitigate the damage is through a standard redundancy payout. But a simple severance payment is not enough; people know that it’s a temporary fix.

They’ll burn through this cash quickly without a job.

What’s required is a real conversation which looks at maximising re-employment possibilities for retrenched QANTAS staff.


Is Win-Win Possible?

The three questions I have for Alan Joyce are:

  • Are QANTAS assisting their retrenched staff in maximising their employability?
  • HOW are QANTAS actually taking care of these people? Have outplacement services been considered to maximise the chances of retrenched staff being hired by other airlines sooner rather than later?
  • If retrenched QANTAS staff decide to seek employment in another industry, how can QANTAS assist them in positioning themselves correctly, so that their airline-centric skill set makes them competitive in a non-airline job market?

It’s not enough for Joyce to speak of “challenges”, “cuts”, “shedding” and “tough decisions”.

That’s executive language aimed at executives. It’s absolutely necessary, but leaving the conversation there leaves him more open to attacks from unions, whose favour he desperately needs right now.

Playing hardball takes courage, I give him that. But being effective at playing hardball also requires a bit of heart.


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