Friday, November 5, 2010

Maintaining Safety Must Come First

The uncontained engine failure on Qantas flight QF32 yesterday is the latest in a growing list of serious incidents to have affected Qantas flights in the last few years. It is obviously premature to make any assumptions about what may have caused yesterday’s failure, but the obvious question has to be whether concerns about cost cutting and offshore maintenance have any substance. Is it just a coincidence that, at the same time that the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association has raised the alarm about reduced staff numbers and outsourcing of maintenance work, things seem to have started to go wrong for Qantas? Or is the airline industry, and not just Qantas, now under too much pressure to cut costs, and as a result cutting corners?

It’s a fact that Qantas has reduced its staff numbers so that less maintenance work is done in house and more is done by outside contractors. It’s true that this arrangement means sometimes relying on the quality standards of foreign companies operating in jurisdictions which might not have the same regulatory standards as our own. There are many good reasons for keeping jobs in Australia instead of outsourcing to foreign countries. Preserving Australian jobs not only helps Australian workers and their families, it is good for the community, it preserves our national skills base and it is good for the economy. It’s even good for business, even if they are sometimes too short-sighted to see it.

If by chance it also means better safety standards then the argument becomes overwhelming.

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