Qantas flight stewards reacted angrily yesterday to reports that the Australian flag carrier, one of the world's most profitable airlines, plans to shift up to 7,000 jobs offshore in a cost-saving measure.
The Australian newspaper quoted Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon as saying the airline could no longer afford to be an "all-Australian" business while its competitors lowered costs by sourcing up to 30 percent of staff overseas.
Dixon, who was overseas and could not be contacted yesterday, reportedly said if international benchmarks were followed, more than 7,000 jobs would move overseas.
The Flight Attendants' Association, which represents cabin crew, said that with Qantas about to post another record profit, and given its persistent appeal to patriotism in its advertising, it could not justify shifting more jobs and services overseas on cost grounds.
"We could understand if Qantas was a struggling airline about to go under; we could then understand the need perhaps to go overseas and outsource jobs but it's completely the opposite," said Michael Mijatov, secretary of the union's international division.
"Qantas announced a record profit last year and is on course this year for an even greater profit so it's totally unnecessary," he said.
Mijatov told commercial TV that while he understood Dixon's role as chief executive was to maximize profits, there were other aspects to the issue.
"I would have thought some sort of responsibility to the Australian community would come into it as well, bearing in mind this is a company, for example, that loves to use the slogan `The Spirit of Australia.'
"It uses, in its advertising, the Australian Youth Choir.
"But the way it's going, with the outsourcing of these jobs, means that some of those young kids in the Australian Youth Choir, for example, if they ever wanted a job with Qantas in the future, they're highly unlikely to get one," he said.
Mijatov said that it was difficult to say where the job cuts would be targeted but that they would likely extend from cabin crews into other areas such as maintenance.
Qantas posted a record profit of A$648 million (US$492 million) -- which placed it second in profitability only to Singapore Airlines -- in the year ending last June.
Dixon claimed 94 percent of the carrier's 35,000 staff were Australian, the highest of any international carrier, but said it had no choice but to continue to look at opportunities for cost-saving overseas.