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Qantas Broke Australian Employment Law By Outsourcing Jobs During the Pandemic

Qantas Broke Australian Employment Law By Outsourcing Jobs During the Pandemic

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An Australian court has dealt Qantas a major setback after concluding that the airline broke employment law when it outsourced 2,000 ground worker jobs during the pandemic. Qantas says it will appeal the ruling and will not reemploy the workers who were fired as a result of the outsourcing decision.

Qantas had claimed it was necessary to outsource ground handling and maintenance services to a third party contractor in order to dramatically cut costs as a result of the devastating effect that the pandemic has had on the carrier.

Photo Credit: Qantas

The airline estimates that outsourcing the jobs would save it around A$100 million a year and an additional A$80 million over the next five years on ground handling equipment like tugs and baggage loaders.

But the Transport Workers Union (TWU) took Qantas to court arguing that the airline had viewed the pandemic as a “transformational opportunity” which could be used to strip workers of collective bargaining rights.

On Friday, Australia’s federal court agreed that preventing future industrial action was a factor in outsourcing jobs.

“Senior Qantas management have serious questions to answer after the judgment. The judgment made clear that Qantas targeted its ground workers for outsourcing because they were united to fight for decent standards at the airline,” commented Michael Kaine, TWU national secretary.

The TWU is demanding that the workers be rehired but Justice Lee said that petition would be heard at a later date. Qantas said it would oppose any such order and is seeking an appeal at the earliest opportunity.

“The TWU has put forward its persecution complex that our decision to save $100 million a year in the middle of a global downturn was really about stopping them from walking off the job at some time in the future,” slammed Qantas Group executive John Gissing.

“The focus of the TWU’s case was on a few documents that made reference to industrial action while ignoring the hundreds that don’t,” Gissing continued.

“Any company acting prudently has to consider all operational risks when making a significant decision, but a reference to the risk of industrial action risk does not automatically mean that it’s a reason for the decision.”

Qantas announced its plans to outsource jobs like baggage handling and aircraft cleaning at 10 airports across Australia in august 2020. The airline says the same jobs had already been outsourced at 55 other airports prior to the pandemic.

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