An aviation safety article

Author: Alex Paterson


Last updated: 11 March 2008

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On the 18th of August 1989, the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) embarked on an industrial campaign ostensibly in support of a 29.47% pay claim. As part of this campaign, AFAP Pilots imposed on their employers (Ansett, East West, Ipec and Australian Airlines) a limitation on the hours they were prepared to work in the form of only making themselves available for flying duties within the normal office working hours of 9am to 5pm.

This action precipitated one of the worst and most expensive industrial disputes in Australia's history, now known as the 'PILOTS DISPUTE' of 1989.

The Dispute has been conservatively estimated to have cost the Australian economy well over a billion dollars and resulted in the loss of many thousands of jobs associated with the demise of the many businesses indirectly affected.

The Dispute was a significant factor causing Australia to plunge into recession nearly two years earlier than its trading partners during the early 1990s.

The Dispute, which has never been resolved, has resulted in nearly 80 % of the pilots involved not returning to their former positions, despite the pay rise allegedly causing the Dispute being well and truly met. This being the case, a number of key questions need to be answered :

The following is a pilot's perspective of the real causes of the Dispute and the reasons why the vast majority of the pilots involved were unable to return to their former positions.



THE AUSTRALIAN PILOTS' DISPUTE OF 1989 (190k) consists of:-


APPENDICES (200k) consists of:-


Alex Paterson is an ex Ansett pilot who resigned his position along with most of his colleagues in August 1989 associated with the Australian Pilots' Dispute of that year.

At the time of the Dispute he was a newly elected member of the AFAP executive and although he had little influence over the major decisions pertaining to the same, he played a significant role in the day to day running of the Dispute as it unfolded. This role provided him with a rare inside view of the Dispute from a pilot's perspective.

The author can be contacted at email:

Photograph of Alex Paterson


The document 'A Pilot's Perspective of the 1989 Australian Pilots' Dispute' is the Copyright of the author, Alex Paterson. All rights reserved by the author. Not withstanding this, the document may be reproduced and disseminated without the express permission of the author so long as reference to the author is made, no alterations are made to the document and no money is charged for it.

Additional Keywords: army, airforce, industrial dispute, pickets, strike