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News News 'Duress' on pilots to sign AWAs
A PERTH pilot who refused tosign an Australian Workplace Agreement was told in writing by his bosses that his decision was untenable, the Federal Magistrates Court heard yesterday. The Workplace Ombudsman is alleging that National Jet Systems, Australia's largest supplier of contracted air services, breached its obligations under the post-Work Choices Workplace Relations Act in two ways.

Barrister for the ombudsman Richard Hooker is claiming the company applied duress to pilots Lyndon Kruger and Andrew King during the AWA negotiations and failed to pay them and 31 of their colleagues an agreed CPI increase from July 1 last year.

The pilots are in turn being sued by the Adelaide-based company for breach of contract as a result of their refusal to sign the AWAs put to them in 2005.

National Jet Systems is expected to detail its claim this week that the pair breached an undertaking that they would sign the AWAs, which The Australian understands included a clause stipulating that each pilot would contribute $15,000 towards their training.

The amount could be refunded after three or four years.

In his opening address, counsel for the Workplace Ombudsman claimed National Jet Systems's actions were designed to affect the free will of Mr King and Mr Kruger. "Mr Kruger was informed by letter that the decision not to sign up was both 'disappointing and untenable'," Mr Hooker said.

Mr King and Mr Kruger are being represented by their own lawyer at the hearing.

National Jet Systems operates all Qantas Link flights, and flies throughout Australasia, including to Christmas Island and Cocos-Keeling islands.

The company provides fly-in, fly-out personnel transport services for resource companies in Western Australia and South Australia and air freight services for express freight provider Australian Air Express.

It has 28 aircraft and employs about 800 people.

In July, the Transport Workers Union claimed to have signed up 100 pilots as new members as a result of the stoush over AWAs.

The hearing, which is expected to last five days, continues in Perth today.

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