People travelling to and from Australia face delays until Wednesday due to the backlog created by industrial action involving the national airline Qantas.
Flights have now resumed but it will take several days for services to get back to normal and people are advised to contact the airline to check details.
The strike has left around 70,000 people stranded around the world. Flights are now able to start again after Fair Work Australia granted the Australian Government’s application to terminate all industrial action by the Australian Licenced Engineers Union, the Transport Workers Union, the Australian and International Pilots Union and Qantas.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is encouraging anyone whose visa status might be affected by the grounding of the Qantas fleet to contact their nearest DIAC office.
A spokesman for the department said there could be a number of people visiting Australia with visas due to expire in coming days who would require assistance to allow them to remain lawfully in the country until alternative arrangements could be made for them to depart.
The spokesman said the department wanted to assure people every effort would be made to ensure they would remain lawfully in Australia until arrangements could be made for them to depart. Anyone concerned about their visa status should contact their local DIAC office.
Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd stated today that the Government stands ready to meet the consular obligations to Australians abroad as a result of the grounding of the Qantas international fleet.
Rudd met with the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Perth and arranged for DFAT consular staff to work with Qantas, including attending airports around the world as required, to assist people with re-booking and accommodation arrangements, where Qantas services have been suspended.
‘The Government will deliver consular services to Australians who encounter serious trouble as a result of Qantas’ decision to cancel international flights,’ Rudd said.
Under the orders issued by Fair Work Australia, there will now be up to 21 days of negotiations between the parties. No industrial action can take place during this period. If no agreement is reached during this period, binding arbitration will take place under the control of Fair Work Australia.
Qantas chief executive officer Alan Joyce said the decision would provide certainty for passengers.
‘This is a good outcome that will enable us to begin operating flights progressively. Our focus is bringing our schedule back to normal as soon as possible. Safety will remain our first priority at all times,’ he explained.
‘The industrial process has now passed into the hands of the independent umpire. All parties will be treated equally and we will respect the decisions that are made. We have new and existing agreements with 12 unions. We now anticipate the conclusion of agreements with the remaining three.
‘We sincerely regret the impact on customers of industrial action over recent months, and the effect on employees. We look forward to a rapid recovery and to a period of stability enabling us to focus on our customers and our strategy for the airline,’ he added.
Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy welcomed the decision.
‘The decision provides certainty for tourism operators and, most importantly for the tourism industry, allowing Qantas to progressively resume flights,’ he said.
‘Australian tourism is open for business and we need to ensure whatever existing damage to our industry can now be minimised. There will be a backlog to clear, in particular from our international markets,’ he added.