On the 29th of October, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced that he was grounding all the aircraft in his airline in a bid to bring a protracted dispute with numerous unions representing Qantas workers to a head. The dispute had resulted in ongoing industrial action that was costing the airline millions of dollars a day and despite so-called ongoing negotiations neither party seemed capable of moving towards a resolution. So the day after the AGM the shock announcement is made that the airline has effectively shut up shop and left some 60,000 passengers around the world stranded.
Alan Joyce claims this was necessary as the unions were 'trashing the brand' and the damage to the airlines reputation had to be stopped but this is disinegenuous at best. Not because the unions were not damaging the brand but because Alan Joyce and his board had effectively overseen the devaluing of the brand ever since his tenure began. In the past twelve months alone Qantas has seen its share price tank by more than 40% - considerably more than rivals like Singapore Airlines so you can't just blame the markets. A reputation that used to see Qantas regularly ranked No. 1 for safety and service has fallen away to such an extent that the airline is lucky to crack most people's top ten. Frequent Flyers (of which I am one) rate Qantas well behind airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, JAL, Lufthansa and Qatar.
Despite this appalling record the Remuneration Committee of the Qantas Board recommended a salary increase for Alan Joyce approaching $2 million! All this at a time of declining profitability, share price, reputation, service standards and customer satisfaction. What is worse is that it was approved at a feisty AGM the day before the airline announces it is grounding all its aircraft.
I do not pretend to know the in's and out's of Qantas's business nor am I making judgments as to who is right or wrong with regard to the ongoing industrial disputes. However, the sheer stupidity from a public relations and moral point of view of undertaking these kinds of actions in these kinds of circumstances beggars belief. When a Board and CEO behave in this manner it destroys their credibility. Once and for all people, you cannot claim you need to restructure to save costs while at the same time significantly increasing costs through bumping up executive salaries. You cannot claim that you need to improve performance while continually rewarding executives for non-performance in terms of key measures like share price and customer satisfaction. You cannot claim to be negotiating in good faith when you use tactics to blindside your workers and your customers. As a CEO you cannot claim credit for anything good that occurs without taking responsibility for anything bad.
Ask yourself a question... for relations to become this strained and incendiary between a CEO and his workforce just how incompetent does that CEO have to be? Alan Joyce may have done fantastic things for Qantas behind the scenes but none of it is visible to any of us. From a public relations point of view he is an unmitigated failure and in the modern world of social media and a 24 hour news cycle that should be enough to get any CEO fired.