Angry union activists have called on Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce to step down over new plans to outsource nearly 2,500 ground handling jobs at airports across Australia. The new job losses are on top of 6,000 previously announced redundancies, as well as thousands more workers who remain stood down as flights remain largely grounded because of the COVID-19 pandemic and international services face a hiatus until July 2021 at the earliest
On Tuesday, Qantas announced plans to outsource baggage handling and aircraft cleaning services, along with a number of other ground services at 11 of its largest airports in Australia. The airline said the Corona crisis had forced it to examine ways to deliver existing services more efficiently.
The Transport Workers Union of Australia reacted with fury to the news, accusing Qantas of squandering half a billion dollars of public money and attempting to turn the national flag carrier into the Australian version of budget European airline Ryanair.
“If Alan Joyce’s only plan is two wield the axe on thousands of loyal staff, he should resign,” slammed the TWU’s national secretary Michael Kaine. “This is not shrewd management, it is economic violence,” he continued.
“We are calling on the Prime Minister to intervene and call Qantas to account over its misuse of taxpayers’ money,” Kaine said of the airline’s decision to pay staff hit by today’s announcement JobKeeper payments.
Qantas hopes to save as much as A$100 million a year by outsourcing services like baggage handling and aircraft cleaning to specialist companies like Swissport. The TWU fears those savings will be found by paying staff considerably less.
“Today’s announcement will be very tough for our hard-working teams, most of whom have already been stood down for months without work. This obviously adds to the uncertainty but this is the unfortunate reality of what COVID-19 has done to our industry,” explained Qantas’ head of domestic operations Andrew David.
David said domestic capacity was currently only running at 20 per cent of pre-COVID levels and that 220 aircraft remain in longterm storage. Recovery could take several years at least.
Qantas explained that most airlines around the world outsource ground handling services to specialist companies who find efficiency savings through scaling their operations. “We expect some unions will come out and say these suppliers are unsafe, despite the fact they are used by every other airline in this country,” said Gareth Evans of Qantas subsidiary Jetstar. “We would never compromise on safety,” he continued.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.