TWU calls for cap on airline executive pay, as Qantas seeks $4.2bn bailout

The Federal Government should take a stake in domestic airlines and impose strict conditions on executive pay, as Qantas tried to outdo Virgin today with an outrageous claim for a $4.2 billion bailout, the TWU has said.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government should move to take a stake in the airlines and set the following conditions:

  • Cap on executive pay, as some European countries operate to this day following the bank bailouts during the financial crisis
  • Ban on executive bonuses and shareholder dividends until workers are returned to their jobs and all leave and superannuation is paid back
  • Permanent full-time jobs to be maximized
  • Direct hire engagement of workers by the airlines, ending the fragmentation of the aviation sectors where multiple companies are pitted against each other
  • Workers paid the same rate for doing the same job across the aviation sector
  • Contracts at the airports must be scrutinized to ensure safety and job quality are the main focuses, not low cost

“It is just a short few years since the Qantas CEO was walking the corridors of Parliament House in Canberra, cap in hand looking for a bailout following the disastrous decisions he made, including engaging in a price war with Virgin. He now says Qantas doesn’t need a bailout but spits the dummy when Virgin seeks one. It is a cynical ploy to bully his way into setting up a monopoly in the airline sector in Australia, which would devastate the country,” said Kaine.

“The Federal Government must step in now and ensure we have a viable aviation sector on the other side of this crisis but one that is managed very differently. Australia does not benefit when its biggest airline tries to cannibalise the other main airline. Workers do not benefit when the aviation sector engages in a race to the bottom that produces low paid, part-time jobs. It is time for a reboot of the aviation industry and to do that Government must take a stake now,” Kaine added.

The Federal Government has announced over $1 billion financial assistance to the airlines so far in this crisis, with no conditions set.

In 2014, Qantas reported losses of $2.84 billion and sought a bailout from the Government. It forced its workers to take an 18-month wage freeze which it subsequently refused to pay back in terms of its impact on nominal wages and superannuation. A report shows workers will suffer losses of up to $200,000*. Executive pay and bonuses have spiralled since the crisis in Qantas. Just four years after the crisis, the Qantas CEO was named the highest paid CEO in Australia.

A YouGov Galaxy poll last week showed a majority of people – 62% – want the Government to take a stake in private companies which require bailouts, with 50% stating that Qantas should be nationalised if the current situation gets worse and only 20% opposed.

The poll also shows the public is very supportive of the Federal Government’s relief to airlines last week, with 68% saying they agree with the $715 million assistance package.

A large majority – 80% – said executive bonuses and shareholder dividends should not be paid until Qantas workers are paid back the accrued and future leave the company is forcing them to take. Almost two-thirds said Qantas should ensure its workers do not have to take unpaid leave.

* The Long-Term Consequences of Wage Freezes for Real Wages, Lifetime Earnings, and Superannuation. Centre for Future Work. February 2020.

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