An airline spokeswoman said: “It’s very disappointing that the AFAP has applied for a vote on industrial action.
“We have been in constructive discussions about a new enterprise agreement since January.”
The dispute comes at an unwelcome time for Jetstar. It is under pressure from soft economic conditions that pushed the budget airline to a 2.6 per cent fall in unit revenue per seat in the last quarter.
The spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to reaching an agreement for a new EBA to support the great work our people do every day, but not at any cost.”
Jetstar says it pays an average wide-body aircraft captain $323,274 a year, including superannuation and allowances. A narrow-body captain earns $304,576.
The airline’s average first officers receive $234,516 a year for a wide-body operator and $184,260 for a narrow-body operator.
Jetstar says there is also scope for annual 3 per cent pay rises in the enterprise agreement at the moment.
AFAP executive director Simon Lutton said this was not good enough for pilots who were “the lowest-paid jet airline pilots”.
“Jetstar pilots are paid significantly less than their counterparts at Tigerair, Virgin [Australia] and Qantas,” he said. “And they are tired of not being valued as highly as their peers at other airlines.
Jetstar pilots are disappointed to have to take this step but … they have been left with no choice.
— Simon Lutton, AFAP executive director
“Jetstar pilots are disappointed to have to take this step but … they have been left with no choice.”
The move threatens to disrupt the Christmas period for the airline, as industrial action must commence no more than 30 days after the ballot is declared to be protected.
This could throw a spanner in Jetstar’s work during traditionally the busiest period for air travel, and the action follows similar steps from the union taken against Tigerair late last year.
Tigerair pilots refused to fly planes with non-safety related defects, refused to start work within 90 minutes of being called in from standby and slowed down their in-air travel from December 21 to 24.
The budget airline, owned by Virgin Australia, faced further work bans in January.
Tigerair and its pilots signed a new enterprise agreement in June.
The AFAP, which has more than 5500 members and represents most of Jetstar’s 800 or so pilots, also has concerns over the working conditions of Jetstar pilots.
The union singled out fatigue rostering practices, which it said Jetstar had not addressed in negotiations.
The airline rejected this, saying it monitored fatigue risks closely and had a robust regulatory framework in place to address the problem.
Mr Lutton said: “Negotiating with the company in good faith has got [pilots] nowhere.”