Joyce's bonus up in the air at Qantas AGM

Qantas chief Alan Joyce has faced angry shareholders and unions a year after he grounded the airline's entire fleet amid bitter industrial disputes.

Shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in Canberra will decide whether to grant Mr Joyce a long-term pay bonus for this financial year, although his base salary will be unchanged at $2.1 million.

Qantas posted its first annual loss of $245 million last year and announced a restructure that will see the loss of around 2,800 jobs.

Investors have largely turned their back on the company.

Qantas Airways shares were trading at just over $6 in late 2007.

Now, after moving up from a low of 97 cents, they are trading around $1.30.

Investors have not received a dividend since 2008.

A defiant Mr Joyce used his speech to the AGM to again defend his decision to ground the Qantas fleet last year.

"We responded in the only way available to us as an employer under the Fair Work Act," he said.

"The grounding of the Qantas fleet brought certainty for our customers, employees and shareholders." Mr Joyce described last year as challenging but pivotal.

He said Qantas's new alliance with Emirates was the "most significant" in the airline's history, as it seeks to rescue its loss-making international arm.

"I absolutely can say this is not going to be a risk to employment in Qantas," he said.

"This is going to strengthen and secure jobs." 'Three out of 10' Shareholder activist Jack Tilburn was typically frank in his attack on the board, led by chairman Leigh Clifford.

"I would give you four marks out of 10 as chairman, I'd give Joyce as managing director three marks out of 10." Mr Clifford said he recognised it had been a difficult period for shareholders.

"However, the significant steps taken over the past 12 months have been consistent with the group's goal of building long-term shareholder value," he said.

"We remain committed to resumption of dividends at the earliest opportunity." But shareholders are concerned that may take some time.

"The final full 12 months' dividends, Mr Clifford, for Air New Zealand if you ever do forensic investigations like I do, 5.5 cents per share - Air New Zealand," Mr Tilburn said.

"Us - bugger all.

Nothing.

Last year, this year.

I forget what three years ago was but I'll ask Mr Clifford.

"And I'll end up on that matter of dividends.

We want them, we should get them.

You've got $4 billion in cash that is our money.

We should get a dividend next year." If the plan developed by Mr Joyce is any guide, it may take years.

"In August last year I sent out the five-year plan for Qantas International along with the broader transformation initiatives for the group as a whole," Mr Joyce said.

"The plan has the goal of returning Qantas international to profit in the short term.

"It will restore a great Australian airline to financial health, with Jetstar the only Australian-owned international airline serving this country." Sinking boat But Qantas International remains an unprofitable business and Qantas's main rival Virgin has just made moves to take more domestic market share from the airline.

Mr Joyce says his priority is turning around the fortunes of the international business.

"Our focus now is on realising the full benefits of transformation measures and securing approval for the Emirates partnership," he said.

Investment manager Roger Montgomery likened Qantas to a sinking boat.

"Sadly it really doesn't matter how excellent the rower of this particular boat is, if you're rowing a boat with a big hole in the side of it, the ship is going to sink," he said.

"It's a business that unfortunately has all the things that we don't look for in an investment candidate.

It is capital intensive, there is irrational and illogical competition, it is labour intensive and you are dealing with unions constantly." The Qantas Airways team will no doubt be waiting for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission decision on Virgin's proposed push to grab control of Tiger Airways.

Shares in Qantas Airways were unmoved at noon (AEDT).

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