Airline industry unions and the ACTU today stepped up their campaign to save thousands of Ansett employees’ jobs and to protect accrued employee entitlements.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet called on Ansett’s owner, Air New Zealand, and the Federal Government to immediately guarantee the accrued entitlements of all of Ansett’s 17,000 employees, in any arrangement involving the future of Ansett.

“Our first priority is to protect jobs. But this crisis at one of Australia’s biggest companies also clearly demonstrates the need for a comprehensive scheme to protect Australian employees’ entitlements. The Howard Government has failed to develop such a scheme, but must now ensure that Ansett workers’ entitlements are protected 100%. The unions estimate that the Government’s safety net scheme will cover only about 10% of entitlements if it is called upon,” Mr Combet said.

Speaking after an emergency meeting of airline unions in Melbourne, Mr Combet said the unions were also seeking meetings with the Government, the ACCC, and Qantas management on its possible plans to take over Ansett.

“Unions have repeatedly asked Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister John Anderson to convene talks of all the stakeholders so Ansett is given every chance of continuing to fly, but the Federal Government has done nothing,” Mr Combet said.

“John Howard is ignoring 17,000 Australian employees and their families who are the latest victims of his obsession with competition policy and deregulation theories.

“The ACTU and airline unions are seeking discussions with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to argue for the protection of jobs and regional services in any carve-up of Ansett,” Mr Combet said.

Today’s union meeting also resolved to organise a series of public rallies in support of the Ansett staff and the services they provide to regional areas. Members of the public are being asked to help support Ansett employees by continuing to fly with the embattled airline.

The airline industry unions also condemned the Howard Government for refusing to act when Ansett’s problems emerged months ago.