Published: 09/05/2022
Category: On The Job
Published: 09/05/2022
Category: On The Job

Don Dixon loved working for Qantas.

Don worked as a supervisor on ‘the ramp’, overseeing the loading of aircraft for years. His job was to sign off that the aircraft was good to go and was proud of his role in keeping Australia’s iconic airline flying.

“You could be at a party and people would ask what do you do? And soon as you said you worked for Qantas, they knew one thing – that you worked for Australia’s favourite airline,” Don told On The Job.

That all changed for Don and other Qantas ground staff in late March 2021 when Qantas sacked thousands of its workers. Don hasn’t been able to return since.

“We weren’t fired – we were replaced. That’s what happened. And that was that’s what the Australian public and Australian workers need to understand,” Don said.

“We certainly didn’t want to go and work for one of the labour hire companies that took our jobs at much reduced rate with extremely poor conditions.”

“You’d earn less money than the cost of your tolls and petrol. It is minimum wages and four-hour shifts – you’d be lucky to earn $80,” the former Qantas employee said.

Qantas’s ruthless sacking of its workforce has been challenged every step of the way by the Transport Workers Union (TWU). Last week, the full bench of The Federal Court upheld an earlier decision that Qantas decision to sack workers like Don was illegal.

The Court’s decision concluded that Qantas breached the Fair Work Act by outsourcing workers to prevent them exercising their industrial rights to bargain and take protected industrial action.

Further remedy hearings will now take place to determine the compensation Qantas should pay to workers in addition to penalties for 2,000 illegal sackings.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the ruling made it crystal clear that Qantas attempt to replace its workforce with insecure jobs and labour hire work was not on.

This is an emphatic ruling – a unanimous decision from four Federal Court judges. Qantas executives deliberately targeted and attacked workers and broke the law in sacking them to prevent them exercising their rights. Safety, service and sentiment for the airline have all plummeted over this unlawful decision to outsource. There is only one appropriate response from the Qantas board – heads must roll.

Michael Kaine
TWU national secretary

Michael Kaine  -  TWU national secretary

For Don Dixon and his Qantas work mates, the decision is a vindication of their determination to stick together and fight for their jobs. However, it has taken its toll on them all.

“It’s been extremely tough. It was very upsetting because, like myself, a lot of people I worked with had been there for 20 years. We were long term employees, because it was a career wasn’t just a job,” he said.

“You had to jump through quite a few hoops to get a job there in the early days before they outsourced. Now, they’ll take they’ll take anyone, doesn’t matter what experience you have”.

There were some tragic stories. Many of us faced a financial crisis. They just threw us on the scrapheap with very little notice. I know people who took out a loan for home renovations. They didn’t know that two weeks later they were going to be shown the door.

Don Dixon
Former Qantas employee

Don Dixon  -  Former Qantas employee

Don Dixon has first-hand experience of how companies like Qantas are willing to punish workers in pursuit of profits.

“[Qantas] have an obsession with making workers insecure and getting the cheapest possible labour so they can drive wages and conditions down to the bottom as fast as they can,” Dixon said.

Michael Kaine paid tribute to Don Dixon and his fellow workers for their determination to take the fight up to Qantas.

“Through unity, resilience and determination, Qantas workers have achieved a huge victory. After a horror 18-months having lifelong careers savagely and illegally ripped away from them, workers stood tall and took on one of the harshest and most powerful companies in the country”.

“Scott Morrison must answer for his silent backing of Qantas, now found twice by the Federal Court to have illegally sacked 2000 workers while the largest recipient of corporate welfare intended to keep workers engaged in their jobs.

“It is no wonder we have record low wage growth and chronic insecure work under the Morrison Government,” Kaine said.

Workers stand tall to clip Qantas wings

Workers stand tall to clip Qantas wings