‘watershed moment’ for 2000 Qantas workers as court rules against Qantas on outsourcing

Transport Workers' Union

The Federal Court has ruled against Qantas over the axing and outsourcing of 2,000 ground workers, with baggage handlers, ramp workers and cabin cleaners hoping to get their jobs back as soon as possible.

The court stated Qantas axed the workers to prevent them from exercising their rights to bargain for better wages and conditions and to take industrial action. Justice Lee referred to evidence presented in court showing Qantas saw the pandemic as a “transformational opportunity” and that there was a “vanishing window of opportunity” for their airline to make changes.

Workers have been eagerly awaiting the ruling, with a TWU survey this week showing three quarters have been unable to secure full-time work since they were sacked by Qantas, and 77% want their jobs back.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government refused to hold Qantas to account over the illegal outsourcing but that the workers had.

“This judgment is a watershed moment for workers in Australia. The Federal Court has ruled that workers cannot be bypassed by employers like Qantas which want to drive down wages and conditions. This ruling calls a halt to shifting responsibility for workers and outsourcing them onto third parties on a low cost, take-it or leave-it contract. Workers whose lives have been put into turmoil after being kicked out of work will be expecting their jobs as soon as possible and we will be seeking meetings with Qantas to ensure this happens,” he said.

“Senior Qantas management have serious questions to answer after this judgment. The judge made clear that Qantas targeted its ground workers for outsourcing because they were united to fight for decent standards at the airline. The Federal Government’s role in this must also be examined. It has pumped $2 billion of public funds into Qantas while allowing the airline to wage a war against its workers in a bid to drive down wages,” he said.

The Qantas ground work was outsourced earlier this year across 90% of its operations. The airports included: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs and Canberra. Workers bid for their own jobs but Qantas rejected their bid in November, despite an application put together by Ernst & Young which identified significant cost savings.

A number of serious safety breaches have been reported at Qantas since the ground work was outsourced, including planes severely damaged after being hit by baggage vehicles, damaged planes taking off without being investigated, dangerous understaffing at airports, pilots being given wrong information about baggage weight load, baggage being delayed and damaged.

Qantas announced scandal-ridden Swissport got a major portion of the outsourced work, receiving 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, fought for five years to get a new enterprise agreement in place, with the Fair Work Commission rejecting successive deals because they did not meet minimum standards.

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.

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