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Qantas offered him up to 350 Australian dollars ($375) a day for food and accommodation, but Crulley expected to struggle to find a hotel at short notice in Sydney on a Saturday night.

The government had called an emergency arbitration court hearing on Saturday night to rule on the strike action and the airline’s response.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her center-left government, which is affiliated with the trade union movement, had “taken a rare decision” to call an emergency arbitration court hearing on Saturday night to terminate the strike action.

“I believe it is warranted in the circumstances we now face with Qantas … circumstances with this industrial dispute that could have implications for our national economy,” Gillard told reporters.

The tribunal’s three judges adjourned the hearing after almost two hours and were deliver their decision sometime later Saturday.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese described the grounding as “disappointing” and “extraordinary.” Albanese was angry that Qantas gave him only three hours’ notice.

All 108 aircraft in as many as 22 countries will be grounded until unions representing pilots, mechanics, baggage handlers and caterers reach agreements with Qantas over pay and conditions, Joyce said.

“We are locking out until the unions withdraw their extreme claim and reach agreement with us,” Joyce said, referring shutting staff out of their work stations.

“This is a crisis for Qantas. If the action continues as the unions have promised, we will have no choice but to close down Qantas part by part,” he added.

Staff will not be paid starting Monday, and Joyce estimated the grounding will cost the airline $20 million a day. It already had reduced and rescheduled flights for weeks.

Richard Woodward, vice president of the pilot’s union, the Australian and International Pilots Association, accused Qantas of “holding a knife to the nation’s throat” and said Joyce had “gone mad.”

Steve Purvinas, federal secretary of the mechanics’ union, Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, described the grounding as “an extreme measure.”

The recent strike action has most severely affected Qantas domestic flights.

In mid-October, Qantas grounded five jets and reduced domestic flights by almost 100 flights a week because aircraft mechanics had reduced the hours they were prepared to work.

Qantas infuriated unions in August when it said it would improve its loss-making overseas business by creating an Asia-based airline with its own name and brand. The five-year restructure plan will cost 1,000 jobs.

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