The Australian Domestic Pilots’ Dispute of 1989 and Its Implications: An Interpretation


  • John Burgess
  • Richard Sappey



The 1989 domestic pilots' dispute in Australia provided a stark demonstration of the underlying conflict and tensions of the neo-corporatist Prices and Incomes Accord. The pilots proposed a wage increase outside of the Accord guidelines but of comparable tnagnitude with the wagge increases received by senior executives within the airline sector and senior public servants. A protracted campaign saw the government and employers, with the tacit support of the ACIU, use a range of extreme measures against the Australian Federation of Air Pilots. Eventually, industrial peace was returned to the domestic airline sector. However, the costs, financial and emotional, of the dispute were considerable. The government restored industrial "order" but left considerable disquiet and division within the Australian trade union movement. The dispute established many important precedents for the business sector and the opposition Liberal/National Parties coalition in their push for labour market de-regulation in Australia.


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