CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s government ordered an emergency arbitration hearing today after Qantas Airways grounded its global fleet amid a bitter dispute with striking workers, stranding passengers around the world.
Government leaders, who expressed frustration over the airline’s actions, were expected to argue at the hearing that Qantas should be forced to fly in Australia’s economic interests.
“It’s not our place to start allocating responsibility, but what I also know is there is a better way to resolve these matters … than locking your customers out,” Australian Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten told reporters ahead of the arbitration hearing in the southern city of Melbourne.
Qantas, the world’s 10th-largest airline, announced Saturday that it would ground all flights. But CEO Alan Joyce said the airline could be flying again within hours if the three arbitration judges rule to permanently terminate the grounding and the unions’ strike action.
The unions want the judges to rule for a suspension so that the strikes can be resumed if their negotiations with the airline fail.
“We have to wait and see what that process generates today,” he said, referring to the court hearing.
Planes in the air when the grounding was announced continued to their destinations, and at least one taxiing flight stopped on the runway. Among the stranded passengers are 17 world leaders attending a Commonwealth summit in the western Australian city of Perth.