LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch is demanding a review of Qantas’ decision to close its Cairns crew base, saying that the rationale behind scrapping the well-performing base “doesn’t stack up” and it will have a massive impact on local families.
Mr Entsch said he had been in communication with Qantas families and had been able to put together detailed information which outlines the community impact of the closure.
“They tell me that of the 120 or so base crew at Cairns, 70 per cent have more than one child in the Queensland Education system and 95 per cent own a home and/or have a mortgage,” Mr Entsch said.
“Half of them were born and bred in Cairns and many of them have strong ties to local charities and organisations including the Hospital Foundation, Cook Out for Kids, church groups and youth groups.
“These employees are now feeling a huge amount of pressure as they were told they have just two weeks to decide where they want to live, if they want to keep working for Qantas.
“How can you expect somebody who has spent the last 10 or 15 years in our community to pack up their lives and move in two weeks?
“We also have to ask how many of these families were victims of the Ansett and Australian Airlines closures – how many crises do we have to put these people through?”
Mr Entsch said it was apparent that the decision to close the crew base was only made in the 48 hours preceding the announcement. “It was clearly more of a kneejerk reaction rather than a well-thought-out strategy,” he stated.
“This is evident by the fact that the Cairns operation was efficient, effective and out-performed other regional bases. The Cairns base has better customer satisfaction scores and lower sick leave/injury leave rates than any other base ? to me, that does not sound like justification for closing.
“Cairns seems to be taking the fall for southern bases as there’s no explanation where the figure of $1.7 million a year in savings has come from.
“I’m also concerned because any moves to close the base don’t jibe with our focus on developing Northern Australia. We’re talking about trying to bring people to Northern Australia yet Qantas is shifting its focus away – it seems they are swimming against the tide.”
Mr Entsch said he would advocate for the base to remain open and operational, with a reduction in staff size if absolutely necessary. In the worst case scenario, Qantas should phase out the base over an extended period of time ? at least 18 months to two years ? with a review in 12 months.
“Qantas needs to revisit their decision and take the time to substantiate the figures they are throwing around,” Mr Entsch said. “From the information I’m getting, their justification doesn’t seem to be based on numbers, and if they review it they may well find it enhances their bottom line.
“I call on our community leaders including the Chamber of Commerce, Advance Cairns and the CCIQ to get in behind these Qantas workers and demand that Qantas review their decision. It may well be bad decisions like these that have contributed to Qantas ending up in this position, so we can’t just sit back and let it happen.”