Published: 02/08/2021
Category: On The Job
Published: 02/08/2021
Category: On The Job

Qantas is a company that likes to fly on the wings of cheap sentiment about being “The Spirit of Australia”.

We’ve all seen the ads – full of sweeping shots of beautiful beaches, outback serenity, smiling passengers boarding pristine jet planes that bank ever so gently to give you the perfect view of the Sydney Opera House glistening in the morning sun like a precious jewel.

Spare me the spin.

What Qantas the company really is remains something quite different.

Run by their radical free market fanatic CEO Alan Joyce, Qantas is a corporate predator that will stop at nothing to diminish the job security and conditions of its Australian workforce to deliver higher profits and dividends for shareholders and fatten the already bulging bank balances of its executives.

Qantas isn’t the spirit of Australia – its corporate practices make it the very worst of Australia.

Once again, it took a union and its workers to take on the job of reining in a badly behaved company that treats its workforce as an adversary and a problem to solve rather than an asset to be nurtured and protected.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) won a famous victory in the Federal Court last Friday in its fight against Scott Morrison’s insecure work economy and Qantas’ betrayal of its Australian workers.

The court ruled against the axing of 2,000 jobs belonging to Qantas ground staff – baggage handlers, ramp workers, cabin cleaners – who are now hoping to get their jobs back soon.

In its judgement, the court acknowledged that Alan Joyce and his Qantas board, including media darling Todd Sampson and Chief Commissioner of the AFL Richard Goyder, exploited the pandemic to outsource their workforce by ditching local staff.

In the judgement, Justice Lee of the Federal Court referred to evidence presented in court that showed Qantas saw the arrival of COVID-19 as a “transformational opportunity” and that there was a “vanishing window of opportunity” for their airline to make changes.

All of this, after Qantas had been the beneficiary of more than $1.2 billion in direct government payments, waived charges and underwritten flights in 2020.

That’s the spirit.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Morrison Government didn’t care about holding Qantas to account for its illegal outsourcing of jobs, so the union took it upon itself to do so.

“This judgment is a watershed moment for workers in Australia,” Kaine said.

“The Federal Court has ruled that workers cannot be bypassed by employers like Qantas, which want to drive down wages and conditions.

“This ruling calls a halt to shifting responsibility for workers and outsourcing them onto third parties on a low cost, take-it or leave-it contract. Workers whose lives have been put into turmoil after being kicked out of work will be expecting their jobs as soon as possible, and we will be seeking meetings with Qantas to ensure this happens.”

Qantas groundwork was outsourced earlier this year across 90 per cent of its operations. In a page out of the ‘Hunger Games’, workers were forced to bid for their own jobs, but Qantas rejected their bid in November, despite an application put together by Ernst & Young which identified significant cost savings.

In that time, a number of serious safety breaches have been reported at Qantas since the groundwork was outsourced, including planes severely damaged after being hit by baggage vehicles, damaged planes taking off without being investigated, dangerous understaffing at airports, pilots being given wrong information about baggage weight load, baggage being delayed and damaged.

ACTU President, Michele O’Neil, underlined the power that workers have in challenging egregious behaviour, even by the biggest employers, if they work collectively.

“The TWU’s win demonstrates the power that working people have when they stand together, even against businesses like Qantas, who are using the pandemic as an excuse to reduce the pay, conditions and jobs of their loyal workforce,” said O’Neil.

“Qantas CEO Alan Joyce received $10.74 million in annual earnings last year and cannot hide under the guise of the pandemic to strip workers of their pay and conditions.”

The first place to turn. The last people to give up.

Qantas wings clipped as workers win fight against outsourcing

Qantas wings clipped as workers win fight against outsourcing