November 15, 2011 / 10:45 PM / in 7 years

Qantas hopeful can reach deal with unions by Nov 21

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s Qantas Airways (QAN.AX) is hopeful of reaching an agreement with three key unions by a November 21 deadline, its chief executive said on Wednesday, after it grounded its fleet last month in a desperate bid to end industrial disputes.

Qantas has held talks over the past two weeks with the three unions representing its pilots, aircraft engineers and baggage handlers, which are all wary about the airline’s moves to cut costs and set up an airline offshore.

“We continue to be hopeful we can reach an agreement,” chief Executive Alan Joyce told reporters, adding he was optimistic.

The federal government intervened as a result of the grounding, and workplace umpire Fair Work Australia ordered an end to the industrial action.

The ruling gives both side till Monday to settle the dispute or submit to binding arbitration.

The Australian and International Pilots Association, the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association were not immediately available for comment on the progress of talks with Qantas.

Qantas is under pressure to cut costs as its international business is operating in the red, and is looking to grow by setting up two new airlines in Asia, including a premium airline joint venture, which would not be subject to the constraints Qantas faces at home.

Joyce said the airline had held “productive” talks with Malaysia’s two major airlines, Malaysian Airline System (MAS) MASM.KL and AirAsia (AIRA.KL) about the premium airline plan.

Reporting by Narayanan Somasundaram; Editing by Ed Davies

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