Pilot strike threatens FIFO operations

WA’s fly-in-fly out workforce could be left stranded after pilots voted in favour of strike action over a pay dispute.

Eighty five pilots have voted to stage stoppages as a pay dispute with their employer Cobham Aviation Services intensifies.

Cobham, which owns National Jet Services,  is contracted by QantasLink to run services out of WA, the Northern Territory and northern Queensland. The strike would mean workers in all regions could be affected, The West Australian reported.

Transport Workers Union spokesman Rick Burton said the union had not decided when the strike would take place, as negotiations with Cobham continued.

Burton says the dispute centres around the pay rate for first officers, who earn half of a captain’s rate.

Burton said the TWU was seeking 65 per cent of the rate but Cobham was offering 55 per cent.

"The mining companies should get the Greyhounds (coach services) ready," Burton said.

"This is definitely not an idle threat."

Burton said Cobham pilots flew nearly thee-quarters of all passengers to and from WA’s regional areas, and raised doubts over how small operators such a SkyWest would cover the service for passengers.

QantasLink flies to WA’s major resources centres Karratha, Newman, Paraburdoo, Port Hedland and Kalgoorlie.

A spokesman for Cobham would not say whether it had an alternative plan in the event of a strike.

"We remain committed to the bargaining process and believe that industrial action being initiated while discussions are ongoing would be unreasonable and without justification," he said.

"We wish to remain engaged and work toward a constructive and mutually acceptable solution and do not see how protected industrial action is warranted or assists the process."

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