Page last updated at 06:34 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 07:34 UK

Qantas faces stoppage over pay

Qantas plane
Qantas profits are being squeezed by soaring fuel bills

Australian airline Qantas faces turbulence next week when more than a thousand engineers begin a series of strikes over pay.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) announced industrial action in five major cities after failing to agree a pay deal.

The ALAEA had demanded a 5% wage rise for 1,500 engineers, but the airline has offered 3%.

It is the latest blow for Qantas which is struggling with rising fuel costs.

Grounded planes

It has been a tough year for Australia's flag-carrier. The company has already announced a pay freeze for senior bosses and has cancelled flights on key routes.

Earlier this month, it grounded flights to Japan and south-east Asia.

It is also redcued services for its budget airline Jetstar, is preparing to scale back domestic routes and has also announced job cuts.

Last month, Qantas faced severe disruption following a two-day strike that grounded 17 flights.

Like its rivals in the industry, Qantas is seeing profits evaporate because of the rising cost of oil.

The airline estimated its fuel bill would account for more than a third of its total expenditure this year.

However, the union said daily strikes would continue until Qantas starts to "play fair".

"Qantas engineers are committed to the airline and have campaigned hard to maintain high safety standards, but by driving down wages and conditions, Qantas is putting its international reputation at risk," said Stuart Purvinas, federal secretary of the engineers' union.

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