Ansett deal starts to unravel

Old Feb 6, 02, 6:07 pm
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Ansett deal starts to unravel
Ansett deal starts to unravel

THE relaunch of Ansett stumbled closer to collapse yesterday as 1000 jobs were cut from Ansett Mark II's proposed staff and crucial negotiations with Sydney Airports Corporation stalled in a bitter public row.

The airline's administrators revealed they would take on just 3000 workers, down from the estimate of 4000 at the creditors' meeting last week, which will cost creditors $61 million in extra entitlement payouts.
The administrators told the Federal Court in Melbourne the airline's ticket revenues had dropped by about $1.8million a week, and asked for urgent approval of their decision to keep trading until the end of the month, despite losing $6 million a week.

The fight between Sydney Airports Corporation and the Ansett administrators over terminal access at Sydney went dramatically public last night when angry airport executives blasted the administrators for rejecting a "good faith" offer.

A leaked letter shows crucial negotiations have stalled, because of the airport corporation's demand to know the structure of a separate company that will lease the terminals from Tesna, the new Ansett company.

The corporation also wants to know how Ansett employee entitlements are secured against Ansett's Sydney terminal and was stung by a statement by Ansett administrator Mark Korda.

In his affidavit to the Federal Court, Mr Korda said he was "extremely concerned some of the third parties may take advantage of our commercial predicament and may derail the Tesna sale".

Mr Korda told the court that if the airline went into liquidation, Ansett's terminal building could be bought at below market price.

But he did not name the airport corporation as the culpable third party, and acknowledged under cross-examination from the airport's lawyers that it had negotiated in good faith.

The letter from a corporation executive said he regretted Mr Korda had rejected a compromise offer. "May we remind you this is the third time we have made an offer to you to expedite this transaction and get Tesna flying," the letter to Mr Korda says.

The continuing delays increase the danger Ansett will lose key staff.

It is understood Ansett is having trouble filling at least one executive job, despite offers to several candidates.

Sources close to Tesna said the company had discovered efficiencies which meant it did not need as many workers in areas such as ground handling and call centres.

But ACTU secretary Greg Combet said the 25 per cent job cut was "a big disappointment".

He pressed the administrators to pursue the Tesna negotiations "with some vigour".

The extra cost of paying redundancies for the 1000 Ansett staff who do not get a job with the reborn airline has led to concerns redundant workers may not get their full entitlements. Under cross-examination by the ACTU, Mr Korda told the court provision had been made in the administrators' figures for Tesna to employ just 3000 people.

"All employees should be paid in full," he said.

The revelation of fewer jobs at Ansett Mark II will strain the close relations between Mr Combet and the administrators that has been at the centre of attempts to keep Ansett flying.

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