Qantas baggage handlers, push-back drivers and cabin cleaners will visit Federal Parliament today to demand action to save 2,000 jobs, after Qantas announced this week it was rejecting a bid from them for the work they do and replacing them.
Workers want to meet Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Transport Minister Michael McCormack to ask them to tie conditions to public funding for Qantas to a commitment to halt the outsourcing to outside agencies. Mr Morrison has declined the request to meet but Mr McCormack has agreed to meet later today.
Qantas has received over $800 million in Jobkeeper and other public financial assistance during the pandemic but wants to replace its entire ground operations with workers on lower wages and conditions. Qantas announced that Swissport, owned by HNA which is controlled by the Chinese Government, would get the lion’s share of the work at almost 1,000 of the outsourced jobs.
A bid by workers and assisted by EY was cheaper than the market rate and came with cost savings and efficiencies but was still rejected by Qantas, just days after it was submitted.
Michael Kaine TWU National Secretary said workers were looking to the Federal Government to support them.
“Workers want to know if the Federal Government will back them. They want to know what the hundreds of millions spent on Jobkeeper and other financial supports for Qantas was about if it wasn’t about saving jobs. The important thing to remember is these workers are not being made redundant they are being replaced. We cannot understand how the Government which has pumped hundreds of millions into Qantas to keep it afloat is standing by and allowing this to happen,” he said.
“We are calling for the Federal Government to end to the ‘no strings attached corporate welfare’ where Qantas gets to have its wages bill paid for by taxpayers and gets public money to keep flying but decides to throw its loyal workers onto the scrap heap and into the Centrelink queues. We want to see conditions attached to Jobkeeper and other public money so that Qantas starts to act like a responsible corporate citizen. Qantas says it will break even by Christmas so we expect it to be back to profit next year and back to paying its CEO and other senior executives bloated pay packets and bonuses,” Kaine said.
“Since the Qantas announcement earlier this week we have gone over the bid by workers that Qantas rejected, we’ve spoken to EY and looked at the numbers again and frankly the decision by Qantas makes no sense. Our bid is cheaper than the market average and when you take into account the efficiencies identified by workers throughout the operation and the fact that these are highly skilled, experienced workers, Qantas should have awarded the bid to its own people. As a result we are examining all legal avenues to see if we can take this further,” he added.
Qantas is pushing out workers at 10 airports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs and Canberra. Management has already outsourced over 400 Jetstar workers since August.
Swissport has failed over almost five years to get a new enterprise agreement in place, with the Fair Work Commission rejecting successive deals because they do not meet minimum standards. Swissport has been back in the Commission this week trying to get approval for another substandard agreement.
Qantas revealed in its annual report recently it is paying its senior executives millions of dollars. When Qantas announced last year its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.
Last Friday, sick Qantas workers were left devastated after the airline’s refusal to allow them to use the leave they built up over years was backed by the Federal Court. Qantas was found by the Federal Court previously to be misusing Jobkeeper, refusing to pay workers for the overtime and weekends they have worked.
The Senate recently passed a motion setting up an inquiry into the future of the aviation industry. It is expected to look at Government and industry failings to date and set out recommendations for support into the future.