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Emirates Threatens to Pull Out of Australia With Permanent Loss of 4,500 Jobs Over COVID-19 Wage Subsidies

Emirates Threatens to Pull Out of Australia With Permanent Loss of 4,500 Jobs Over COVID-19 Wage Subsidies

The Emirates Group says it is reviewing its ground handling operations in Australia after the Australian government excluded the company from a JobSeeker programme because it is a foreign-owned business. JobKeeper aims to keep furloughed employees in their jobs by offering up to A$1,500 a fortnight but after initially extending the programme to foreign-owned companies, the government has now reversed course.

The ground handling company Dnata had initially stood down 4,000 Australian employees because of the COVID-19 crisis but had taken them back after the JobKeeper scheme was created. Now, Dnata says 4,500 staffers risk being permanently stood down without pay.

Photo Credit: Dnata

The company also admitted that it is reviewing its longterm presence in Australia because of the decision. Michael Kaine, national president of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) described the decision to preclude Dnata from JobKeeper as a “devastating blow for thousands of workers in Australia”.

Dnata is the largest ground handling services provider in Australia and according to the company it handled more than 27,000 flights last year, moved over 2.5 million tonnes of cargo and employs more than 3,000 people alone in its Australian airline catering operation. A total of 6,000 workers are employed by Dnata in Australia

The company is wholly owned by the Emirates Group, which in turn is owned by the government of Dubai.

“The application of the scheme was critical to the company’s Australian employees, as it meant that we could reinstate previously stood down workers, and keep the rest of the workforce employed,” a statement from Dnata explained.

“Although unintended, the amendment to the JobKeeper legislation will create an uneven playing field in the airport handling and catering sectors as none of our competitors have been excluded from the scheme,” the statement continued. “We are not asking for anything more than our competitors will also be receiving through the JobKeeper scheme.”

Rival handling agent Swissport, owned by the Chinese HNA Group, is also likely to affected by the change in JobKeeper rules.

“The exclusion of Dnata from the JobKeeper scheme puts over 4,500 jobs at risk while leaving employees and their families without an income with extremely short notice,” the company warned. “As a result, we are also forced to review medium, and longterm viability of Dnata’s various Australian businesses including catering, grounding handling, retail and hospitality.”

Dnata has grown its presence in Australia over the last few years and according to the company has invested A$300 in its employees alone. In 2018, Dnata acquired Qantas’ catering division for A$150 million.

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