TWU lodges dispute over Qantas’ move to axe workers – two days before Christmas

The Transport Workers’ Union is today lodging an urgent dispute in the Fair Work Commission over Qantas’ intent to rush through a redundancy process starting just two days before Christmas.

Qantas announced this month it was outsourcing over 2,000 baggage, ramp and cleaning workers, rejecting the competitive bid submitted which found millions of dollars in savings. Qantas has already outsourced over 400 Jetstar workers.

The TWU urged Qantas to hold off on the redundancy process until the New Year to allow consultation with union representatives, but the airline refused.

“Qantas’ cruelty knows no bounds. Workers have gone through hell and back this year, now the airline wants to force through a redundancy process and notify workers of their final working days less than 48 hours before Christmas. These workers have given years, if not decades, to Qantas. They’ve spent several Christmases away from their own families, cleaning and loading planes to help other Australians get to their loved ones. Qantas is displaying callous indifference over the future of 2,000 people who’ve built the airline to what it is today,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

On Friday Qantas stated it planned to kick off the redundancy process on 23 December, during a meeting that was supposed to discuss the outcome of an exercise to gauge workers’ preferences for departure. The majority of workers selected the latest possible departure date in March. Many workers reported confusion over the airline’s preferences system with 25 per cent failing to complete the form.

The TWU is challenging the outsourcing of 2,000 workers in a Federal Court case.

“It is utterly heartbreaking for Qantas workers to be treated in this way. First, to be pushed out the door and outsourced, replaced by workers on lower pay and conditions after years of dedication and loyal service. Then to have a competitive bid assisted by EY rejected within days of submission. And now to be thrown on the scrap heap and onto the Centrelink queues just days before Christmas. Qantas management is acting with impunity. The Federal Government could impose conditions today if it wanted to based on the amount of money it is pumping into the airline. It is refusing to hold Qantas management to account over the treatment of workers,” Kaine said.

Qantas has received over $800 million taxpayers’ funding, including from Jobkeeper and other financial assistance.

Workers at 10 airports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs and Canberra will lose their jobs, which will now be outsourced mainly to Swissport which pays workers lower wages and conditions.

Qantas announced scandal-ridden Swissport would get a major portion of the outsourced work, getting around 1,000 of the jobs. Swissport, which has been exposed over low paid workers on grueling split shifts forced to sleep at the airports, 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.

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.

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.

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