Black day for Australian aviation

It was the darkest day in Australian aviation since Ansett's collapse in 2001.

Threats of strike action from unions and increasing comparisons to Ansett as well.

The flying kangaroo has copped a public mauling following its well-flagged announcement that it will slash 5000 jobs over the next three years.

Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon led the attacks, calling on the Abbott government to meet with the airline to find ways of reducing the cuts.

"But if (Treasurer) Joe Hockey's not prepared to do that, then it's industrial action that the workforce should be considering," he said.

"In this country, if the government won't stand up for jobs and for the Australian icon, then we will."

He labelled the announcement of job cuts "Joe Hockey's wet dream" and accused the government of working against the national interest.

Mr Sheldon urged the government to drop its desire to get rid of the Qantas Sale Act, which limits foreign ownership of the airline.

"Do we want Qantas to be Aeroflot with a Kangaroo on its tail?" he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten labelled the job shedding a tragedy.

"This is the worst day for aviation people since the collapse of Ansett," he said.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the decision was devastating.

"Qantas workers don't deserve to be treated this way," he said in Melbourne.

"We want to know 'where did this 5000 figure come from?' We want to know where the job losses are going to come from," he said.

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) questioned the airline's direction.

"The federal government should be twisting management's arm to be open and honest about where it is heading," AIPA president Nathan Safe said.

"Otherwise, it is like supporting a plan to bulldoze half a house before the blueprints to rebuild have been drawn."

As for safety standards, Steve Purvinas from Aircraft Engineers Association believed they would be further compromised.

"They've sent maintenance offshore," he said.

"Heavy maintenance and facilities where we know they staple broken wires together. We know they release aircraft and maintenance facilities with engines not bolted on correctly."

Workers were not prepared to speak to reporters at Melbourne Airport, fearing reprisals from Qantas.

Australian Services Union assistant national secretary Linda White took issue with the decision to extend an executive wage freeze to all employees.

"It's punishing the workers for the poor business decisions made by (CEO) Alan Joyce," she said.

Business groups called for changes to the Qantas Sale Act.

"In the case of Qantas, there is a particular need for the government, and indeed the opposition, to correct the anachronistic limits on foreign shareholdings," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said.

Mr Joyce is due to meet with unions on Friday.