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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Ansett workers offered some hope
Qantas and Ansett planes on the tarmac
Australia's 'flying kangaroo' makes an offer for Ansett
The administrator of failed Australian airline Ansett has offered some of it 17,000 employees a glimmer of hope, telling them on Sunday to prepare to be recalled to duty this week.


I don't want to give people false hope, but I really need airline staff to be on standby

Ansett administrator
Ansett collapsed on Friday, stranding 45,000 passengers and throwing all of its employees out of work, after Air New Zealand put its Australian subsidiary into administration with debts and losses of A$1.3m ($670m) a day.

Union leaders on Sunday threatened a nationwide strike that would paralyse Australia's aviation industry if the government does not promise to pay Ansett employees the salaries and bonuses owed to them.

A trade union blockade that prevented six Air NZ aircraft leaving Melbourne and Perth on Friday and Saturday in protest at the airline's actions was also lifted on Sunday.

Union action

Air NZ is being blamed in Australia for ruining a national aviation pioneer, asset stripping the airline and refusing to pay sacked workers their entitlements.

Unions have threatened to "kick" Air NZ out of Australia with bans and boycotts if it fails to make an offer to staff by the end of this week.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said on Sunday that Australian workers had no prospect of getting anything from Air NZ if it was driven under by boycotts.

The estimated bill for paying off the employees is A$400m Australian dollars ($208m).

For sale

Administrator Peter Hedge said he was holding meetings on Sunday with investors that might be interested in the non-flight parts of the business so that at least some employees could return to work as early as Monday.

"I don't want to give people false hope, but I really need airline staff to be on standby," he said.

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon
Dixon wants Ansett's domestic routes and planes
"Some flights may be back in the air on Tuesday morning if today's negotiations are successful."

He said there would not be jobs for all of the employees, but some could be required quickly, depending on the outcome of a creditors' meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Hedge warned that if Air NZ had taken assets from Ansett at the last minute, it would be forced to return them.

Interested parties

Ansett Pilots' Association vice president Luke Smith said a proposal for a staff buy-out had been put to the administrator, with the backing of all Ansett unions.

Qantas, which turned down an offer to acquire Ansett last week, is also negotiating to take control of its aircraft and flight staff for the short term to keep stranded travellers flying.

Qantas also wants to operate Ansett's regional services permanently and said it likely would need 6,000 to 7,000 extra staff to cope with its extra share of the domestic aviation market, Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon said on Sunday.

Another airline reported here to have shown an interest was Germany's Lufthansa.

Employment Minister Tony Abbott said the government would introduce legislation into Parliament next week to impose a new tax on airline tickets to help cover the cost of paying off Ansett workers.

See also:

14 Sep 01 | Business
Protests as Australia airline fails
12 Sep 01 | Business
Aussie airline rescue fails
11 Sep 01 | Business
Qantas poised for airline deal
06 Jun 01 | Business
Australia avoids recession
01 May 01 | Business
Airlines clash down under
09 Aug 01 | Business
Australian job losses on the rise
16 Aug 01 | Business
Qantas profits slump
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