- Qantas to lay off pilots in bid to revive profits
- Crocodile eats boy in PNG
- 'Imminent' N. Korea nuclear test unlikely: US think-tank
Posted: 13 May 2014 10:48 PM PDT
SYDNEY, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - Struggling Australian airline Qantas on Wednesday said it will make dozens of pilots redundant for the first time in 40 years as it looks to slash costs to contain massive losses.
The national carrier, which announced it would cut 5,000 jobs from its workforce in February, will call for voluntary redundancies among its Boeing 747 and 767 pilots.
A spokesman said the airline was not placing an exact number on the redundancies until the application process was complete but reports said up to 100 positions, or just under 20 percent of the 550 pilots for both fleets, were being targeted.
Qantas has around 2,000 pilots on its books.
The airline previously said it would retire both its ageing 747 and 767 fleets as part of a plan to save Aus$2 billion (US$1.8 billion) over the next three years, with chief executive Alan Joyce saying the airline was facing "some of the toughest conditions" it had ever seen.
Qantas chief pilot Dick Tobiano said in an internal message that plans to accelerate the retirement of the planes meant the airline was no longer able to manage the staff surplus through leave arrangements.
"It is anticipated that exits would be staggered corresponding with network and fleet reductions," he said.
The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) said the redundancies were "regrettable" but it would work with the company to "ensure the process was managed with as little pain to individual pilots as possible".
"Obviously from AIPA's perspective it is far better to see fleet reductions managed with older pilots stepping out on their own terms, rather than younger pilots being made redundant compulsorily," AIPA president Nathan Safe said.
While the cuts could see some of Qantas's most experienced pilots leave, Safe told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he did not "have any concerns about a lack of experience resulting from this - not at all".
"Many of the pilots who won't take the package or won't be targeted by the package are also some of our most experienced pilots."
Tobiano stressed to the pilots affected that the cuts did not reflect their contribution to Qantas but the "realities of our fleet plan and the realities we face".
Qantas has lobbied the government for support after it announced a Aus$235 million loss in the six months to December 31 as it grapples with competition from domestic rival Virgin Australia, which is majority-owned by state-run Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Air New Zealand.
Its plea for a debt guarantee, or a Aus$3 billion unsecured loan, was rejected, but the government said it would relax the Qantas Sale Act, which would remove restrictions limiting foreign ownership in the airline to 49 percent.
The bill passed the lower house of parliament in March but has yet to reach the upper house Senate.
Posted: 13 May 2014 10:46 PM PDT
SYDNEY, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - The limbs of an 11-year-old boy have been found inside a huge crocodile and his head discovered nearby after he was attacked in Papua New Guinea, a report said Wednesday.
The four-metre (13-foot) croc grabbed the boy, Melas Mero, as he was fishing with his parents on Thursday at the Siloura River in Gulf Province in the south of the Pacific nation, police commander Lincoln Gerari told PNG's National newspaper.
"The crocodile swept the boy with its tail and then attacked the defenceless child," Gerari said.
The provincial commander said police found two hands, two legs and a hipbone inside the crocodile after they tracked it down and killed it. The head was found later and taken to a morgue.
The attack is the second to take place in PNG this year, according to a global database managed by researchers at Australia's Charles Darwin University.
The CrocBITE database said a man, whose age was not given, was killed on January 1 by a saltwater crocodile at Rawa Bay in North Bougainville.
A total of 75 crocodile attacks, of which 65 were fatal, have been recorded in PNG by the database since 1958.
Posted: 13 May 2014 07:39 PM PDT
SEOUL, May 14, 2014 (AFP) - Despite fears to the contrary, North Korea does not appear to be preparing an imminent nuclear test, a US think-tank said Wednesday in an analysis of recent satellite images of Pyongyang's main test site.
While the latest pictures dated May 9 do show high levels of activity at the Punggye-ri site, most of it seems to be of a mundane, routine nature that would not be consistent with an impending test, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said.
In an analysis posted on its closely-followed website 38North, the institute offered several scenarios, including the possibility that Pyongyang had been pushing towards a test but was warned off by its main ally and economic benefactor, China.
Based on available evidence... it appears that a nuclear test is not imminent," the analysis said.
"Indeed, given previous North Korean practices, one possible conclusion is that if the North is planning a test, it may still be weeks away," it added.
The international community has been on edge for a month after South Korea cited intelligence reports that the North was planning to conduct its fourth nuclear test - possibly to coincide with US President Barack Obama's visit to Seoul in April.
Subsequent satellite analysis by several think-tanks confirmed stepped-up activity at the Punggye-ri site, but most stopped short of predicting a detonation timeline.
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