Qantas A330-300. By Rob Finlayson

Fair Work Australia (FWA) will resolve the long-running between Qantas (QF) andthree labor unions with binding arbitration after negotiations broke down over the weekend.

The airline has been engaged in a bitter 10-month dispute with three unions—the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Assn. (ALAEA), Australian and International Pilots Assn. (AIPA) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU)—over new labor contracts, which culminated in QF grounding its fleet Oct. 30 and appealing to the industrial umpire for a lockout of union members. FWA responded by calling an end to the industrial impasse and giving the unions 21 days to negotiate a settlement (ATW Daily News, Oct. 31).

The AIPA and TWU are challenging the QF grounding and lockout (ATW Daily News, Nov. 11).

ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas said that while progress had been made, “four or five matters” remained outstanding.

“We think at this stage it’s probably best if we go to arbitration to sort them out,” Purvinas told AFP. “We are quite happy for Fair Work Australia to decide in arbitration … a 21-day extension wasn’t going to help us and it’s just easier to sit down before a full bench and get them out of the way.” Purvinas said the ALAEA was hopeful for a resolution before Christmas.

QF CEO Alan Joyce said the move to arbitration will bring certainty to the airline and its customers but that the process could take a number of months.

“During that period, there can be no industrial action by any of the unions,” he said, noting that a binding arbitration agreement would lead to an agreement that will be in place for four years. “This brings certainty to our customers, our employees and our shareholders,” he said.