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Qantas Furloughs 2,500 More Staff As Australia’s Pandemic Sucess Left in Tatters

Qantas Furloughs 2,500 More Staff As Australia’s Pandemic Sucess Left in Tatters

Around 2,500 Qantas employees will be temporarily stood down and sent home without pay in response to a collapse in bookings as Australia attempts to get to grips with a significant COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales, its most populous state.

Employees will be furloughed for at least two months after Qantas and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar went from operating nearly 100 per cent of its domestic capacity in recent months to just 40 per cent in July.

Australia’s pandemic success has been rocked by a growing outbreak in Sydney and its surrounding areas which was traced back to an unvaccinated, unmasked cabin crew limo driver who was infected with the highly infectious Delta variant.

There are fears that Sydney could remain in lockdown until October, while outbreaks have prompted sporadic lockdowns in the states of Victoria, South Australia and most recently Queensland.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has suggested that the lockdown could be eased once vaccination rates improve but the federal government has faced criticism over its botched vaccination rollout which has seen Australia lagging behind other developed nations.

“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying and that means no work for a number of our people,” Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said on Tuesday.

“Hopefully, once other states open back up to South Australia and Victoria in the next week or so, and the current outbreak in Brisbane is brought under control, our domestic flying will come back to around 50 to 60 per cent of normal levels,” he continued.

Even when NSW does ease its lockdown, other states could keep their borders shut keeping Qantas and Jetstar planes grounded.

But the airline said it would not send any of its domestic aircraft fleet into long-term storage because it expects travel demand to return quickly as soon as restrictions are eased.

International cabin crew and pilots have been stood down since the start of the pandemic and it’s still not known when they might be recalled. Joyce said on Tuesday that he hopes to start some international flying in December but this is likely to be pushed back to some point in 2022.

Pilots and cabin crew will receive $750 per week in taxpayer-funded wage support but ground workers have been excluded from the scheme.

“The vaccine rollout means the end is in sight and the concept of lockdowns will be a thing of the past. Australia just needs more people rolling up their sleeves as more vaccine arrives,” Joyce commented.

The Australian federal government has suggested that its tough border policy will be relaxed once 80 per cent of the eligible population have been vaccinated. At the moment, only 18 per cent are currently double jabbed.

Photo Credit: Vidit Luthra / Shutterstock.com

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