Qantas workers who met Prime Minister Tony Abbott are disappointed he refused to guarantee their jobs.

Proposed changes to the Qantas Sale Act continue to divide the federal government and airline management from workers, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott admits there is a difference of opinion.

The workers and unions met Mr Abbott in Canberra on Thursday, where they warned that changing foreign ownership restrictions would result in operations moving overseas.

They also asked him, unsuccessfully, to guarantee their jobs.

“On some aspects of this whole issue we don’t quite see eye to eye, but I respect their goodwill,” Mr Abbott said of the half-hour meeting.

“I think they want Qantas to not just survive but to flourish, but the best way for Qantas to flourish is for a new spirit of partnership to exist.”

The federal government announced plans in March to remove foreign ownership restrictions in the Qantas Sale Act, after the airline announced 5000 job cuts.

Qantas welcomed the move.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the delegation asked Mr Abbott to retain Qantas Sale Act provisions, which ensure operations stay in Australia.

He said the unions had “some flexibility” when it came to the ownership rules limiting a single foreign shareholding to 25 per cent, and that of a foreign airline to 35 per cent.

But he questioned why Mr Abbott had changed his position on providing a debt guarantee to the airline.

“In our view that would have been the most expedient way, as long as there was some conditionality about well-paid, secure jobs,” Mr Oliver told reporters in Canberra.

“I want to know why the government didn’t back it. I didn’t get the right answer.”

Qantas worker Sam Corrie, who works at the airline’s Brisbane facility, said he raised safety concerns with Mr Abbott.

“With my own eyes I have seen work that has been sent over to the Philippines that has come back to Brisbane heavy maintenance, and we’ve had to fix up problems,” he said.

Qantas insists its safety standards have not and will not be compromised, adding there has been “no significant concerns with the safety of maintenance work” being carried out on its A380 fleet in Manila.

“Regardless of where maintenance is done, all maintenance on Australian aircraft needs to be conducted at facilities approved by Australia’s aviation safety regulator,” the airline said in a statement.

A Qantas spokeswoman said changes to the Qantas Sale Act were about providing a level industry playing field for the airline, where it is currently at a disadvantage.