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Rex pilots to vote on strike

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Pilots at Australia’s major regional airline Rex will vote whether to strike amid heated wage negotiations, with the union claiming the airline’s offer amounts to a pay cut.

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The Fair Work Commission approved the Australian Federation of Air Pilots’ application to hold a ballot, allowing its members to vote on taking protected industrial action.

Pilots will vote on strike action in an electronic ballot from June 15.

According to the commission’s order, made on Tuesday afternoon, members will vote on a number of actions, including four-hour work stoppages and bans on signing in for work if there has been less than 10 hours between shifts.

The airline says it has offered its SAAB twin engine pilots a 5.1 per cent pay increase from July 1, plus catch-up payments amounting to eight per cent once the company is profitable post-COVID.

Its deputy chairman John Sharp said the negotiations exposed the “hypocrisy” of the union because it agreed to a two per cent pay rise for QantasLink pilots in 2021 and 2022.

Sharp said Rex did not retrench any pilots during COVID lockdowns, and he anticipates staff will stand by the airline while it recovers.

“We believe the vast majority of our pilots are company-minded and can see through the hypocrisy of the AFAP,” he said in a statement.

But the union said the pay rise is a cut of five per cent in real-term salary since 2018, as it does not cover inflation over the previous four years.

“The offer received from the company … is even worse than previous offers,” the union’s statement said.

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange earlier this week, Rex accused the union of sharing “malicious, misleading and deceptive” information with its members.

The company said it had regularly informed the market about the “predatory” behaviour of its regional competitor QantasLink, which led Rex to stop services to Kangaroo Island and at Bathurst, Grafton, Lismore and Ballina in NSW.

Rex, which flies to 62 destinations across Australia, said the resources from its ceased routes will be funnelled to its other regional services.

It expects to be operating above pre-COVID levels by July.

-AAP

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