Jim McDonald and Bruce Millett
Department of HRM and Employment Relations
University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba
Against a background in the past decade of significant contextual changes, including the deregulation of the airlines, the privatisation of Qantas, and the merger of Australian Airlines, Qantas Airlines Limited has undergone significant organisational change. This change has not been characterised by a linear progression but by fluctuations between traditional organisational structures focussed around industrial relations and HR functions and organisational units headed by change agents specifically recruited to head the change process. These latter executives integrated cultural change strategies through training functions focussing on customer service with alternative organisational forms such as contracting out and competitive tendering. These changes may be seen in terms of productivity oriented strategies. A further imperative complementing these processes was the objective of reducing labour costs. Many of the issues arising from these change processes are industrially sensitive. Throughout the period Qantas continued negotiating with trade unions. Indeed, collective bargaining played a crucial role in establishing the protocols for putting in place many of these radical changes to Qantas. The present industrial relations climate gives Qantas some advantage, but it also raises the question of whether the airline will continue to support the collective bargaining process in an environment where some corporations are adopting individual contracts and eschewing collective bargaining.