Qantas, unions to talk job cuts as shares fall

Qantas executives will face off with heavyweights from unions representing the bulk of the airline's 30,000-strong workforce next Wednesday over the latest round of job cuts.

Qantas executives will face off with heavyweights from unions representing the bulk of the airline's 30,000-strong workforce next Wednesday over the latest round of job cuts.

Private equity firms and other large investors have begun to indirectly put out feelers to unions to test their appetite for strategic change at Qantas.

Those talks are said to be in their infancy and insiders say political and foreign ownership hurdles remain high for any moves on Qantas.

Shares in Qantas struck a record low on Tuesday following its shock profit warning and downgrade to junk status last week. Qantas fell as much as 4 per cent to 95.25¢ in late trading - the lowest since the airline was privatised in 1995 - before closing at 96.5¢.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and executives including the airline's domestic chief, Lyell Strambi, and industrial relations head Sue Bussell will meet leaders from the ACTU and unions including the Transport Workers Union, the Australian Services Union and those representing pilots and engineers.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver will be the most senior union leader in attendance.

It will be the first time unions get an opportunity to hear about the business units likely to be hit hardest by the job cuts announced last week.

The airline outlined plans to axe at least 1000 jobs from across the company, including Jetstar, and strip out an extra $2 billion in costs over the next three years.

The unions are eager to learn the extent to which management plans to axe jobs from operational roles. Administrative positions at head office are said to be relatively thin.

"If they start to cut operational roles, then that signals something different and raises the question whether they are going to cut back on international routes," a source said.

The airline has said "all options are on the table" as part of a company-wide review, including part or full sales of assets such as its frequent flyer loyalty program and Jetstar.

There have been suggestions unions may consider making concessions over pay rises and other conditions given the airline's precarious financial position.

The share price is at record lows, which is prompting speculation that private equity firms and other investors are mulling plans for Qantas.

However, insiders say ownership restrictions on Qantas and the political firestorm that would likely eventuate remain large barriers to private equity firms seriously considering a move on the airline.

Insiders also say a plan for a sale and leaseback of Qantas aircraft touted by former Macquarie banker Greg Woolley would be a funding mechanism that would not resolve the airline's structural problems.

It would also need support from the federal government, which has so far been reluctant to step in.

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