TWU calls for Qantas to be nationalised as liquidity announcement fails to mention Worker

The Transport Workers’ Union has said the Federal Government should take partial ownership of Qantas as the airline announced $1 billion liquidity but failed to agree to compensate workers for the hit they will take during the stand downs.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said: “We welcome the liquidity announcement and that the airline has been able to boost its cash reserves. But we are disturbed that this is merely a move by a management team hell bent on avoiding any public stake in a company that clearly needs it,” he said.

“There has been no commitment from Qantas to compensate workers for the losses they will take as they shoulder the burden of this crisis, by being forced to take accrued, future and unpaid leave. This is in contrast to Virgin which today did agree to talks on compensation. It is simply not possible to trust what the Qantas management team will do when the crisis is over in terms of prioritising executive pay, bonuses and shareholder dividends over workers rights and passenger needs,” he said.

In 2014, Qantas 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*. Since the 2014 crisis when Qantas posted losses of $2.84 billion and sought a bailout from the Government, executive pay and bonuses have spiralled. Just four years after the crisis, the Qantas CEO was named the highest paid CEO in Australia.

A YouGov Galaxy poll this week carried out by the TWU 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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