Yesterday, a piece in MediaCorp’s freesheet by an NTU academic reminded me of the narrative that the PM and our “constructive”, “nation-building” local media are trying to tell us about the Qantas dispute, strikes, lock-out and all. It is about a struggling airline trying to cut costs to compete but its unionised workers are prepared to bankrupt it if their demands are not met.
There is truth to this narrative. What the unions fear most is a plan announced in August that would cut 1,000 jobs and some long-haul routes while setting up a new premium airline based somewhere in Asia and forming a joint venture to operate a low-cost carrier in Japan. The unions want guarantees of job security. Qantas says that these and other demands risk destroying its commercial viability.
What you won’t hear, from the PM or the local media or the NTU academic, is that it could be possible that Qantas could be more generous to the workers, and still remain competitive.
If the dispute goes to arbitration (what Qantas wants and which is now likely to happen), the eventual ruling may not be in Qantas’s favour overall, Australian analysts are saying. Since its domestic routes are highly profitable, the arbitrator may decide it can afford to be more generous to workers than it claims.
“Trust No One” especially our local reporters and editors, and local academics writing in the local media. But let’s be fair to our local media. Writing before World War II, George Orwell observed, “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper”. He was referring to the British press.
And “The Truth Is Out There”.