Unions slam Qantas over Jobkeeper rip-off appeal decision

Qantas workers who worked weekends, public holidays and long shifts are angry after the Federal Court full bench backed the airline’s refusal to pay them any more than basic Jobkeeper, despite a previous court judgment that the airline misused the payment.

The decision allows Qantas to continue underpaying workers and manipulating their rosters to pay them not a cent more than the wage subsidy of $600 a week for fulltime and $375 a week for part time workers before tax.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said workers are devastated that Qantas is yet again fighting them in the courts over their wages and entitlements.

“Qantas management has mounted a costly legal battle against its workers over the rightful pay that they have earned. It is also fighting its sick workers over their rights to use the leave they have built up. At the same time it is trashing and outsourcing its entire 2,500 ground workers. This is happening as the public is picking up the bill for their workers’ wages and pumping money in to keep the airline flying. At what point will the Federal Government set conditions on the taxpayers’ money it is gifting Qantas and at what point will the well remunerated Qantas board stand up to a mangement team out of control?” Kaine said.

ASU Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske said Qantas has been forcing people to spend time away from their families and refusing to pay them fairly.

“Qantas workers sacrifice time with their families, often missing Christmas, Easter, school sports and other important family events, so that Australians can travel to see their loved ones. This year has been hard enough, and to do this work during a pandemic and not be remunerated for it is disgraceful and disheartening. Workers are feeling very let down by management that they would refuse their pay and then fight them in court for it. It’s been a hard year for Qantas workers and the idea that they have been ripped off their pay makes it all the harder,” she said.

FAAA Federal Secretary Teri O’Toole said workers have been there for Qantas over the years and feel let down.

“We are disappointed by the manner in which loyal staff have been treated. The airline has relied on the good will of its workers over the years to get difficult jobs done. Workers have shown a willingness to go the extra mile for the airline but now the airline is failing to support them when they are sick and it is fighting them over their pay,” she said.

After Qantas lost the original court case, the airline along with the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia lobbied the Morrison Government to change the Jobkeeper rules to allow the rip-off of workers’ wages.

Last week the TWU and lawyer Josh Bornstein filed a federal court case challenging the outsourcing of 2,500 ground workers. It followed a rejection by Qantas of a bid by its own workers for their jobs, a bid which was assisted by EY and which was chepaer than the average bid by outside agencies.

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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