TWU slams ‘utter confusion’ as Qantas stands down 2,500 workers

Transport Workers' Union

The TWU has slammed the Federal Government and Qantas amid confusion over which workers will receive a wage subsidy with the announcement of 2,500 Qantas and Jetstar workers are to be stood down.

Qantas announced the stand downs without pay just hours after the Federal Government revealed the wage subsidy – but said it would only go to cabin crew and pilots and only cover 50% of those stood down. Ground crew such as baggage handlers and cleaners have been cut out of the wage subsidy – which Qantas now no longer employs after it outsourced them.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said today is a big blow for aviation workers.

“Aviation workers will today be reeling from this latest news. There is utter confusion over who will receive the wage subsidy. Qantas says it won’t pay workers stood down but the Federal Government says it will only pay supports to cabin crew and pilots – and even then only half of them. The Federal Government and Qantas are playing a game of Russian roulette with aviation workers over who will be able to pay their bills and who won’t,” he said.

“Anyone who has an interest in aviation will be alarmed today that the Federal Government is clearly not in charge of aviation policy and that senior Qantas management are calling the shots. Just hours after the Government reveals supports that seem tailored for Qantas, the airline announces stand downs. There are sweet deals being cut involving public money for Qantas that are aimed at cutting its competitors out.”

“There will be thousands of aviation workers terrified today about the future. They are being stood down from their jobs and some won’t be able to access support. This half-baked approach on policy from the Federal Government doesn’t cut it for a vital industry like aviation,” he added.

The TWU wants to see a wage subsidy extended to all aviation workers including ground workers, not just some cabin crew and pilots, and that companies must commit to retaining workers and capping executive salaries.

Qantas continues to be the major winner in Federal Government announcements on support for aviation. The airline is receiving at least $2 billion in wage subsidies, financial support and fee-waiving from the Federal Government. Its international crew have been receiving a wage subsidy despite Jobkeeper being killed off, with Virgin not currently employing international crew. Virgin still employs ground crew which won’t recieve today’s wage subsidy while Qantas axed and outsourced all 2,500 ground workers.

On Friday a Federal Court ruled Qantas the outsourcing was unlawful and that the airline used the “transformational opportunity” presented by the pandemic to target the workforce because they were about to bargain for better wages.

Alan Joyce received $10.74 million in total annual earnings last year, according to a report two weeks ago by Australian Council of Superannuation Investors on CEO pay. When Qantas announced in 2019 its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.

A survey shows three-quarters of Qantas workers have not been able to get full-time work following the outsourcing.

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