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Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 10 News List

JAL dispute grounds 7,000 people

MEANWHILE, DOWN UNDER Engineers for Qantas said they would launch strikes against Australia's national carrier next week over a pay disagreement

AP AND AFP , TOKYO AND SYDNEY

Some 7,000 passengers were grounded yesterday because of labor disputes between the Japan Airlines group and its pilots, company officials said.

Pilots went on strike at Japan Airlines (JAL), Asia’s largest carrier, which canceled 34 domestic flights, about 5 percent of its total.

Some 5,000 passengers were grounded, but no international flights were affected, JAL said.

Pilots with JAL unit Japan Air Commuter called off their own strike planned for yesterday, but the carrier said it still had to cancel 90 flights as it did not have time to prepare.

Some 2,000 passengers were grounded at Japan Air Commuter, mostly people headed to small islands in southern Japan.

JAL’s union and the management were unable to resolve a dispute over summer bonus payments.

The union called the two-day strike from Wednesday, but the carrier was able to carry out normal service on the first day by using non-union pilots.

Rival All Nippon Airways was able to avert a similar strike at the last minute in negotiations with its union.

JAL has undergone a major downsizing effort including slashing thousands of jobs to restore its financial health.

The company returned to black in the year ended March following two consecutive years of net losses.

Separately, engineers for Qantas Airways Ltd said yesterday they would launch rolling strikes against Australia’s national carrier next week as part of a pay dispute. Qantas said the union action would force some flights to be canceled.

The airline canceled 17 domestic flights and delayed many others last month when similar strike action was taken.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association wants a 5 percent wage rise for about 1,500 engineers employed by Qantas.

The airline is offering a 3 percent raise.

The union is also claiming that Qantas is docking the salaries of engineers who refuse to work overtime asked of them.

The association said in a statement that engineers will begin with four-hour strikes in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia’s two biggest cities and the tourist city of Cairns on Monday.

In a statement, Qantas accused the union of timing the strike action to cause the maximum amount of trouble for passengers and said its claims that Qantas was bullying employees and putting the airline’s safety record at risk were bogus.

School term breaks start in most Australian states early next month.

“The union is determined to disrupt the travel plans of Qantas customers and we are equally determined to minimize the impact of its strike action,” senior executive Kevin Brown said.

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