Dispute over meeting, submission
Monday, 19th May, 2014
By By Andrew Robertson
It appears more certain local air services will be reduced after Regional Express said it had no intention of meeting with City Council’s general manager Therese Manns.
The airline said it was yet to receive a promised submission from Council and contradicted Ms Manns’ claim she arranged to meet with Rex’s board at the end of the month to discuss it.
Ms Manns told the BDT on Thursday that she was looking forward to a reasonable hearing with the board in the hope of building a “mutually beneficial and respectful partnership”.
“We wish to clarify that the Board has not been approached for any meetings with Broken Hill City Council for the end of the month, and neither does it intend to conduct such meetings,” the airline said in an email to the BDT after reading Ms Manns’ comments.
It went on to say Council was told on April 15 to submit a proposal and that it had promised a submission at the beginning of May, after which negotiations were to take place prior to the board meeting on May 27.
“Unfortunately the submission has not been forthcoming and the Rex Board will be compelled to draw its natural conclusion from Council’s silence and make a final decision accordingly,” the airline said.
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“We sympathise with the community who has to pay the price, but we wish to give them the assurance that Rex will redouble its efforts for the community once there is a council in place that is sensible, efficient and proactive.”
The airline, which pulled out of a previous agreement, has threatened to end all direct flights to capital cities and reduce flight frequency in response to a proposed increase to the passenger head tax.
General manager of network strategy and sales, Warrick Lodge, has written to Council demanding that it agree to return to the terms of the previous agreement, or face the consequences.
A shocked Ms Manns rejected the airline’s claim that she had not arranged a meeting with the board to discuss Council’s submission.
She also said it was Council who had first approached Rex to enter into partnership discussions.
Ms Manns said she had heard nothing from the airline until April 15, when Mr Lodge responded to an email she had sent him on April 12.
Mr Lodge said he did not have the authority to negotiate and that Council could forward a submission and then discuss it with chairman Lim Kim Hai the day before the board meeting, she said.
“Unfortunately given (Mr Lodge) was on leave when the letter was emailed, I did not have the chance to even discuss possible partnership with him until last week.
“During my discussions with Warrick Lodge, I did advise that I was interested in meeting with the Chair and this did not appear to be a problem.
“I was therefore of the assumption that the meeting would go ahead, so it was news to me when the BDT advised me this was not the case.”
Ms Manns said she had another conversation with Mr Lodge last Thursday, when she told him she would be asking Council to hold an extraordinary meeting this week to consider the submission.
BDT has sighted a copy of the eight-page submission.
“I’ve always been of the belief that relationship building is important, however given the constant attacks by Rex in the media, I accept that I have been challenged in this instance and I obviously should have been conversing with someone other than Mr Lodge,” Ms Manns said.
“That said, I do not accept for one minute the attack that Rex has made on this current Council is warranted.
“This Council has shown strength during a very challenging time and has been working significantly hard over the past nine months for the benefit of the community.
“It does not deserve the vilification and disrespect shown by Rex.”