Qantas hopes to reach deal with unions Monday

Sun Nov 20, 2011 7:24pm EST
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MELBOURNE/SYDNEY (Reuters) - Qantas Airways (QAN.AX: Quote) hopes to reach an agreement with unions by a deadline on Monday, or face a settlement imposed by Australia's industrial umpire, but a union said a deal looked unlikely in a bitter fight over pay and moving jobs to Asia.

The airline and three main unions, after failing to reach a deal in more than a year of talks, have until midnight (1300 GMT) to reach a settlement, or submit to the labor umpire -- Fair Work Australia -- unless a three-week extension of talks is agreed.

"We've been negotiating in good faith, and we hope that we can get a settlement by day's end," Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said on Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said substantial areas of disagreement had narrowed considerably and he felt a deal could be done.

However, Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said: "I am not holding out much hope at this point." The union represents Qantas' baggage handlers.

The unions' main concerns center around the airline's attempts to cut costs and set up two airlines based in Asia.

The Australian and International Pilots Association's chief has been demanding that all pilots on a flight with a Qantas code or sold as a Qantas ticket should be paid as much as Qantas pilots.

Qantas and the three unions were ordered on Nov 1 by the Fair Work Australia commission to reach an agreement by Monday, after Qantas grounded its planes in a shock moved aimed at ending the disruptive disputes.