‘Honest approach to go to construct that belief’: Incoming Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka faces a battle with unions and employees

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'Fair way to go to build that trust': Incoming Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka faces a battle with unions and staff


When former Jetstar boss Jayne Hrdlicka takes over as the primary feminine chief government of Virgin Australia in November, her first problem shall be profitable over the unions who maintain sway over a lot of Virgin’s 6,000 remaining employees.

The American-born Hrdlicka — who has been a sounding board for Virgin’s new proprietor, US non-public fairness agency Bain Capital, in its bid to relaunch the collapsed airline — has a historical past of clashing with the unions throughout her eight years at Qantas.

The tiff with the unions began in 2011. It was a tough time for Qantas, and its chief government Alan Joyce responded to a struggle with the unions over pay by grounding the airline’s fleet and locking out its workforce.

Ms Hrdlicka, 57, was a part of the technique crew at Qantas on the time.

She then got here up towards the unions once more throughout her six years as Jetstar CEO.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce speaks to the mediaQantas CEO Alan Joyce speaks to the media
In 2011 Qantas CEO Alan Joyce responded to a conflict with the unions over pay, by grounding the airline’s fleet and locking out its workforce.(Dean Lewins: AAP)

Transport Staff Union (TWU) nationwide secretary Michael Kaine says there is a want for Ms Hrdlicka to win again belief.

“Jayne [Hrdlicka] was CEO of Jetstar when the corporate introduced in wage freezes, after which the corporate promised bonuses which have been by no means paid.

“We’re going from the [current] CEO [Paul Scurrah] that is constructed some belief within the workforce and the unions, to 1 [Jayne Hrdlicka] that is coming from the opposite route,” he stated.

Virgin Australia boss Paul Scurrah looks off to the right while standing behind a model plane.Virgin Australia boss Paul Scurrah looks off to the right while standing behind a model plane.
Outgoing Virgin Australia chief government Paul Scurrah has constructed some belief together with his employees and the unions.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

“With Scurrah — at the least when he stated one thing to you — he’d all the time observe by means of. You will have his phrase. And he retains it. It at the least lets you construct belief.

Sidelined throughout negotiations

This prickly relationship with the unions continued throughout bidding course of discussions between the unions and Bain Capital.

On the time, there was one other critical contender, Cyrus Capital Companions, and it was essential for Bain to win over the unions representing staff to get its bid over the road.

Ms Hrdlicka had been tipped to affix the brand new Virgin board, however there have been events when some TWU representatives refused to be within the digital negotiating room if Ms Hrdlicka was current.

And when, after weeks of hypothesis, affirmation lastly got here on Thursday that Mr Scurrah would get replaced by Ms Hrdlicka, the unions suspended talks with Bain over a brand new enterprise settlement.

As a part of its plans to revamp the airline, Bain will slash 3,000 jobs and simplify to an all-Boeing 737 mainline fleet.

Virgin airlines planes parked on the tarmac at Brisbane AirportVirgin airlines planes parked on the tarmac at Brisbane Airport
As a part of its plans to revamp Virgin Australia, new proprietor Bain Capital will slash jobs and simplify the airline’s fleet.(Provided: Brisbane Airport Company)

Bain issued a press release on Thursday saying that its technique for operating Virgin had not modified, however that the airline “requires a distinct type of management to outlive in the long run”.

“Whereas this 12 months has been the hardest in international aviation historical past … we’re dedicated to the technique Virgin Australia introduced in August, when the corporate outlined its plans to guard hundreds of jobs, put money into know-how and honour all worker entitlements,” it stated.

Virgin’s administrator, Deloitte’s Vaughn Strawbridge, additionally dismissed the suggestion Virgin Australia goes low-cost.

It will likely be a ‘hybrid’ airline, he stated, “providing nice worth to clients by delivering a particular Virgin expertise at aggressive costs”.

However what “hybrid” means is but to be seen.

The concern is that Bain, which has $3.5 billion on the road in its takeover Virgin Australia, might go even additional in its cost-cutting program and Ms Hrdlicka has been chosen to try this heavy work.

From Kansas grocery retailer to company excessive flyer

Ms Hrdlicka will proceed to juggle her position because the chair of Melbourne-based Tennis Australia and Hawaiian Airways, along with her new job in Brisbane.

She was reappointed to the Tennis Australia position late final 12 months for a time period that ends in 2022.

Ms Hrdlicka is understood to socialize with well-known personalities in politics and enterprise.

She’s reportedly performed tennis with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. She is pals with style guru and Vogue journal editor Anna Wintour, who Hrdlicka was pictured with ultimately 12 months’s Australian Open.

Jayne Hrdlicka, Anna Wintour and Craig Tiley standing together in a tennis stadium.Jayne Hrdlicka, Anna Wintour and Craig Tiley standing together in a tennis stadium.
Director of Tennis Australia Jayne Hrdlicka, Vogue editor Anna Wintour and chief government of Tennis Australia Craig Tiley at Rod Laver Enviornment on January 24, 2019.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

Born in Kansas, USA, to a Czech-born father who migrated to America in 1948, her first job was working on the checkout of grocery retailer Dillon’s in Kansas.

She graduated from Colorado School with a level in maths and economics earlier than doing an MBA on the Tuck Faculty of Enterprise at Dartmouth School.

She initially labored as a administration advisor within the US earlier than coming to Australia in 1994 (she met her husband right here).

She joined Qantas in 2010, earlier than taking up because the third chief government of Jetstar in July 2012.

Underneath her tenure, the funds service delivered a sequence of report income.

‘Ruffling a couple of feathers’ at a2 Milk

Ms Hrdlicka’s subsequent position was being appointed as chief government of a2 Milk in 2018.

The corporate was quickly rising because of Chinese language demand for Australian and New Zealand dairy.

On the time, she was certainly one of solely a handful of ladies to run a top-listed firm.

However after simply 18 months within the job, Hrdlicka stepped down in December final 12 months citing household causes.

a2 milk on display in storesa2 milk on display in stores
Those that criticise Ms Hrdlicka’s tenure at a2 Milk level to rising advisor prices beneath her watch.(ABC: Peter Barr)

Those that criticise her time at a2 level to rising advisor prices beneath her watch.

She spent nearly $19 million in consultancy charges to her former employer, Bain and Co (completely different to Bain Capital).

Administrators have been additionally sad when Ms Hrdlicka offered $4 million price of shares inside months of becoming a member of the group.

And past that, there have been common disagreements with the board over technique.

a2 Milk chairman David Hearn is usually quoted by journalists on his remark that Ms Hrdlicka “ruffled a couple of feathers” alongside the way in which.

‘An unbelievable strategist’

Regardless of these tensions, a supply who wished to stay unnamed however labored carefully with Ms Hrdlicka throughout her years at Jetstar, describes her as somebody who “flexes to the necessities of the position”, “an unbelievable strategist” and “extremely disciplined”.

The supply says Ms Hrdlicka has additionally unfairly taken the blame for the actions of the person she labored carefully with for years, Qantas boss Alan Joyce.

“In 2014, Alan [Joyce] had his transformation program the place 5,000 jobs ended up going and she or he was characterised as an architect of that, I feel unfairly.

“In conferences, she would pull individuals up when it comes to exhibiting care to frontline groups and sending the fitting messages and doing the fitting issues by individuals.”

The supply says beneath former Qantas boss Geoff Dixon, the corporate was not large on gender variety.

Qantas CEO Geoff DixonQantas CEO Geoff Dixon
Underneath Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon the airline was not large on variety, however that modified beneath Alan Joyce as Qantas head and Jayne Hrdlicka as former Jetstar boss.(Dean Lewins, file picture: AAP)

“It was the outdated boys membership beneath Dixon,” the supply says.

Studying the tea leaves

It is also well-known in airline circles that Qantas has a devoted crew who monitor each monetary efficiency metric at Virgin Australia.

“They learn the tea leaves,” the supply says.

“Throughout her time at Qantas she [Hrdlicka] would have had a forensic understanding of Virgin’s financials and efficiency. They watched every part Virgin did.”

Sydney-based aviation advisor Peter Harbison, who’s chairman of the Centre for Aviation, speculates that Ms Hrdlicka has been introduced in to impose additional cuts.

Requested whether or not beneath Ms Hrdlicka we are going to see a extra trimmed-down Virgin than what Bain presently says it will likely be, he responds: “I do not know for sure, however the one assumption I could make is that we are going to.”

“That’s, decrease staffing numbers. These are likely to go hand in hand with [cuts to] companies.”

Mr Harbison says whereas Ms Hrdlicka is for certain to conflict with the TWU — “it has declared conflict from day one” — she isn’t a one-dimensional form of chief government.

“She is a really deeply ingrained aviation one who was essential as a strategic adviser for Bain to Qantas and as an government at Qantas,” Mr Harbison stated.

A row of Virgin Australia aircraft grounded at on airport after the company went into voluntary administration in April 2020.A row of Virgin Australia aircraft grounded at on airport after the company went into voluntary administration in April 2020.
It is doable there shall be additional cost-cutting at Virgin Australia beneath new proprietor Bain Capital.(ABC Information: John Gunn)

Can Jayne Hrdlicka tackle Alan Joyce?

Mr Harbsion provides that at Qantas, Ms Hrdlicka was an necessary participant within the technique to vary employees attitudes in the direction of clients.

“What used to occur when the flight crew got here to work is, they’d verify of their personalities.

Qantas CEO Alan JoyceQantas CEO Alan Joyce
Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce was a mentor to Jayne Hrdlicka when she labored for the corporate. Now they are going to be opponents.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

“‘Do not feel it’s a must to toe the road the entire time.’ And that drastically improved the customer-facing aspect of Qantas.”

Mr Harbison provides that Hrdlicka is aware of Qantas — now her competitor — inside out.

She counts Qantas boss Alan Joyce as a mentor, having met him when he was working as an government on the now-defunct Ansett.

Alan Joyce Jayne Hrdlicka, a man, Anna Wintour, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban sit in grandstands. Alan Joyce Jayne Hrdlicka, a man, Anna Wintour, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban sit in grandstands.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Tennis Australia President Jayne Hrdlicka (second left), style editor Anna Wintour (third proper), Nicole Kidman (second proper) and Keith City (proper) on the Australian Open.(AAP: David Crosling)

Mr Joyce reportedly rang her on Thursday to congratulate her on her new job.

“That is going to be necessary.”

However Mr Kaine says that is not a bonus when her now opponent additionally is aware of her.

“It’s true that Jayne Hrdlicka is aware of Alan Joyce, but when that is true, it is equally true that Alan Joyce is aware of Jayne Hrdlicka,” he stated.

COVID-19 disaster impedes quick restoration

At Virgin, Ms Hrdlicka has her work minimize out for her.

Main Australia’s second-largest airline is rarely a simple feat.

However it’s a good more durable ask through the COVID-19 pandemic, with main international airways nonetheless grounded, worldwide journey largely halted and mass job losses.

Airways all over the world are anticipated to lose a report $84 billion in 2020, in keeping with the Worldwide Air Transport Affiliation (IATA), which is greater than thrice the loss made through the international monetary disaster.

Towards the collapse in demand, airways have confronted larger working prices attributable to new well being and regulatory necessities, and travellers’ fears of catching the virus are prone to proceed to weigh on passenger numbers.

At the same time as journey restrictions begin to ease, IATA in June estimated {that a} return to pre-crisis ranges of air transport exercise will not occur by subsequent 12 months. It expects airways globally to lose one other $16 billion in 2021.

A man in hazmat gear sprays disinfectant on the cabin of a plane A man in hazmat gear sprays disinfectant on the cabin of a plane
The Worldwide Air Transport Affiliation (IATA) has estimated airways globally will lose about $84 billion this 12 months and one other $16 billion in 2021 as a result of COVID disaster.(Reuters: Kham)

Domestically, Virgin Australia, which has like its competitor been hit with the closure of state borders in latest months, might face a good more durable pathway to restoration.

“On the time they purchased it, it regarded just like the Australian market would open up fairly rapidly and now it is clearly not.

“So, they [Virgin] are burning money and seeking to adapt the mannequin a bit given there’ll proceed to be home uncertainty.”

Battle to win the hearts and minds of Virgin’s employees

The opposite problem for Ms Hrdlicka is that she’s not taking up from a CEO who’s loathed or outdated.

Incumbent Paul Scurrah was appointed as Virgin boss in February final 12 months and was in the midst of implementing a cost-cutting program when the COVID pandemic hit.

Whereas he wasn’t in a position to get the Morrison Authorities to bail-out the airline earlier than it went into voluntary administration in April, he’s beloved and publicly praised by his employees.

As one former Virgin worker tweeted on Thursday after information of Mr Scurrah’s departure from the corporate was confirmed: “It does not matter how good Jayne Hrdlicka is, Paul’s departure will lose a variety of hearts and minds @VirginAustralia.”

“I labored at HQ for six+ years beneath Godfrey and Borghetti, and have pals who labored beneath all 3 — all of whom assume Scurrah is nice.

“Hrdlicka and crew will want extraordinary EQ to retain/recuperate the goodwill that Scurrah has constructed.”

Mr Harbison agrees.

“It may be onerous to construct belief with employees — they have been by means of lots,” he stated.

“In a short while — only a matter of weeks — that is been pulled from beneath them.

“And now they’ve ended up with somebody who has been aggressively demonised by the unions and who shall be accountable for Virgin shedding employees.”



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