Australia

Qantas faces legal action over job cuts

The Transport Workers’ Union says it is filing legal action against Qantas today over the national carrier’s decision to shed 2500 ground handling jobs. Qantas announced last week it would outsource the roles in baggage handling, aircraft cleaning and support work to third-party providers in a cost-cutting measure that could save it $100 million a…

The Transport Workers’ Union says it is filing legal action against Qantas today over the national carrier’s decision to shed 2500 ground handling jobs.

Qantas announced last week it would outsource the roles in baggage handling, aircraft cleaning and support work to third-party providers in a cost-cutting measure that could save it $100 million a year.

The cuts are in addition to about 6000 redundancies announced by the company as it reels from a massive downturn in operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qantas workers held a rally at Parliament House in Canberra this morning to protest the job cuts.

The TWU said it was filing legal action against Qantas in the Fair Work Commission this morning on the grounds it failed to consult with workers on its plan to axe the roles.

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In a statement today Qantas said the TWU was “misrepresenting the situation and misleading its members”.

“We will vigorously defend the union’s claims in the Fair Work Commission,” the statement said.

“COVID and border closures blew a $4 billion hole in our revenue last year, which will increase to $10 billion this year. This is forcing us to look at how services like ground handling can be delivered more efficiently.

“In line with our obligations, we commenced discussions with the TWU after advising our employees that we proposed to outsource the remaining ground handling work that is done in-house. No decision has been made.

“Employees representatives will be provided paid time off as well as support from subject matter experts within the business to respond to the proposal and prepare an in-house bid. They will also have longer than specialist ground handlers to prepare a bid.”

The statement continued: “We appreciate that the cost savings and capital investment required are very high and will be challenging for employees to achieve. But given the impact of COVID on the business, it is so important that they are achieved. The size of the potential savings demonstrates what could be achieved from using specialist ground handlers.”

The union has previously called on Qantas boss Alan Joyce to resign over the job cull and asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison to recall the government payments made to the airline, given many of the latest jobs to go had been on hold for months with JobKeeper support.

“What Scott Morrison should do is ask them to pay that money back and take an equity stake and take control of this airline and get it back on an equal footing,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said last week.

“Qantas has taken millions in JobKeeper wage subsidies, more than any other company, with the express intent of keeping people employed. But now Alan Joyce wants to destroy thousands more livelihoods. This is callous abuse of public money.

“If Alan Joyce’s only plan is to wield the axe on thousands of loyal staff, he should resign. “This is not shrewd management; it is economic violence.”

Qantas, which announced a $2.7 billion loss last month, received $515 million gross in government support.

A spokesperson for the airline said $267 million was in the form of JobKeeper payments, most of which went to the 20,000 employees stood down by the airline, while some was used as a wage subsidy for those still working.

The remainder of the $515 million went to run repatriation flights on behalf of the Government, leaving Qantas with a net benefit of $15 million.

Qantas has proposed to outsource the ground workers in at least 10 airports including

Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville.

Job losses of at least 6000 have already been announced as part of the airline’s restructure in response to border closures and more permanent structural changes to the aviation industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month Qantas axed its international CEO, Tino La Spina, as part of budget cuts to buffer the COVID-19 storm.

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