1989 Australian pilots' dispute

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The 1989 Australian pilots' dispute was one of the most expensive and dramatic industrial disputes in Australia's history. It was co-ordinated by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) after a prolonged period of wage suppression, to support its campaign for a large pay increase (which it quantified at 29.47%, though such claims usually form a starting position for negotiations).

The dispute began on 18 August 1989. As part of this campaign, AFAP pilots imposed on their employers (Ansett Australia, East-West, Ipec and Australian Airlines) a limitation on the hours they were prepared to work, arguing that if they were to be treated in exactly the same way as other employee groups (the stance adopted by the Government), their work conditions should also be the same. This initially took the form of making themselves available for flying duties only within the normal office working hours of 9am to 5pm.

The dispute severely disrupted domestic air travel in Australia and had a major detrimental impact on the tourism industry and many other businesses. The Royal Australian Air Force provided some limited domestic air services at the time to ease the impact of the strike. For a while, some overseas airlines operated charter 737 and 757 aircraft in east coast routes, and travel between Perth and Sydney was via Singapore, using international flights. The dispute was superficially resolved after the mass resignation of a significant number of domestic airline pilots to avoid litigation from the employers. The employers obtained significant support from the Labor government and 'successfully' recruited new pilots from overseas.

Ansett, Australian Airlines, East-West and Ipec no longer exist. East-West was a subsidiary of Ansett in 1989, and absorbed fully in 1993. Ansett itself failed financially in 2001. Australian Airlines was merged with Qantas in 1992. Ipec was acquired by Toll Holdings in 1998.

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