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Qantas could be forced to reinstate 2,000 workers



Australia’s leading airline could be made to reinstate 2,000 ground staff

The Transport Workers Union has asked Australia’s Federal Court to make orders to reinstate 2,000 crew sacked by Qantas.

The positions of the redundant staff were outsourced, in a method that would save the airline $100 million a year.

The TWU’s request came after the court ruled on Friday the outsourcing was unlawful, because Qantas took into consideration the risk those workers would strike in 2021 during new enterprise agreement negotiations.

Qantas pledged to appeal the ruling

Qantas has pledged to appeal the ruling after insisting the outsourcing was done purely for commercial reasons, arguing the airline had continued to hire ground workers prior to the Covid pandemic which hit Australia around March 2020.

Qantas suggested that it was not practical to decide on “relief” in the case until the appeal was heard.

The court warned it could take years for the “Full Court” to hear an appeal and questioned whether it was fair to leave 2000 workers in doubt for that long.

Justice Michael Lee of the court also however suggested the TWU’s request for the reinstatement of the former employees was “unworkable”

Given the time that had elapsed, the redundancies paid and the likelihood some had taken new jobs, the Justice Lee says the reinstatement of staff wasn’t likely to happen.

“I’m struggling to see how you could deal with this matter … in a way that’s contemplated by the proposed orders,”

said Justice Lee.

Matthew Follett for Qantas agreed that it would be problematic to make orders for reinstatement of the baggage handlers, ground crews and cleaners.

“You would need to look at where in the life cycle of employment each individual was, potentially what their state of health was, because if your honour is contemplating compensation for loss of opportunity to earn future earnings then contingencies need to be brought into account,”

said Mr Follett.
Qantas could be forced to reinstate ground crew.

“We’re talking about a period of time since employment was lost and the circumstances of individuals in terms of alternative employment,”

Why Qantas outsourced jobs:

In August 2020, Qantas announced its plans to outsource ground handling – which involves services like baggage handling and aircraft cleaning – at 10 ports as part of its response to the COVID-19 crisis. This work has already been outsourced for several years by Qantas at 55 ports across the country.

A competitive tender process, which included inhouse bids put forward by employees and the TWU, confirmed that outsourcing these services would save in excess of $100 million a year because of the efficiencies delivered by specialised companies that provide similar services to scores of airlines.

Outsourcing also avoided Qantas spending $80 million over the next five years to replace aging equipment such as tugs and bag loaders, and allow it to better match resourcing with fluctuating levels of demand.

The decision to outsource was made in November 2020. It resulted in around 1,700 Qantas employees receiving redundancy packages as the handover to external companies was progressively completed by March 2021. Many of these employees were already on COVID-related stand downs.

Anthony Lucas is reporter, presenter and social media producer with ticker News. Anthony holds a Bachelor of Professional Communication, with a major in Journalism from RMIT University as well as a Diploma of Arts and Entertainment journalism from Collarts. He’s previously worked for 9 News, ONE FM Radio and Southern Cross Austerio’s Hit Radio Network. 

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