You ready to volunteer? Qantas is looking for baggage handlers!

Published: 10/08/2022
Category: Workers rights
Published: 10/08/2022
Category: Workers rights

If the Qantas debacle led by CEO Alan Joyce were a reality TV show, it would provide some surreal viewing.  

On the latest episode of Have you been Joyced? we join the cast members on the tarmac as they load bags into the airplane hold.  

In response to a desperate callout for volunteers, Qantas senior executives have put aside their suits in favour of hi-vis vests.  

Let us hope for the sake of Qantas customers’ suitcases that the execs have managed to master a highly specialised job over night.  

For those that missed last season, here’s a brief recap.  

Previously on Have you been Joyced? 

Rewind back to early 2020. Just as COVID was looming on the horizon, Theo and his fellow Qantas coworkers refused to clean and service planes from China because Qantas wouldn’t provide his team with protective equipment and masks. 

Theo said he felt something was off when senior management would enter planes wearing hazmat suits while he and his colleagues had no protection. But rather than respond to the health concerns of employees, Qantas axed their jobs.  

When the Federal Court first ruled against Qantas axing their jobs, they expressed their hopes about returning to work at the company. Instead, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce outsourced their roles in early 2021.   

When Qantas tried to overturn that ruling, the union had the workers’ back and the airline was defeated in court a second time.  

If we rewind even further back, we see that the executives-turned-ground-staff situation isn’t even the first time Qantas has done a volunteer recruitment drive.  

Back in 2018, the Australian Services Union called out Qantas for asking its employees to volunteer to work for free over Christmas and New Year’s. That same year, Qantas posted over $1.6 billion in profit.  

We ask the viewers: Have you been Joyced?

Fast-forward to 2022. This new season of Have you been Joyced? follows Qantas customers as they have their flights cancelled and their bags lost.  

These commuters have been “Joyced” – a term coined in honour of the Qantas CEO who oversaw the mass lay-offs and outsourcing of ground crew.  

This week’s plot twist has seen Joyce resort to asking Qantas executives to volunteer as baggage handlers and drivers.  

It’s an insult to those actually qualified to do those jobs (on astronomically lower wages) and potentially bad news for anyone hoping their suitcase gets onto the correct flight.  

Providing astute commentary to this recent development is Transport Workers’ Union National Secretary Michael Kaine.  

“One wonders what the day job of those executives are if they can be afforded to be taken off for months at a time. And, of course, as if they can just go down onto the tarmac and complete what is a highly specialised function with a click of finger,“ he tells ABC News.  

“There’s an easy solution to this. There are 1,700 workers sitting at home, devastated, suffering mental distress, marriage breakdowns. Some have had to sell their homes because they lost their job unexpectedly.” 

They are ready, willing and able to come back to the tarmac. All it takes for Alan Joyce to swallow his pride, call them up, and there’s a ready-made workforce that can really help us through as we try and rebuild aviation.

Michael Kaine
TWU National Secretary

Michael Kaine  -  TWU National Secretary

The airline has also repeated its pattern of threatening its own workers. In June this year, Qantas told pilots with the Australian and International Pilots Association they would outsource their jobs if they didn’t agree to a new enterprise agreement.  

The exec volunteer callout comes just days before a release of a report from the Australian Council of Trade Unions that finds profits have grown three times faster than wages since 2016.  

Alan Joyce himself is a multi-millionaire and yet not only have employees like Theo suffered under Joyce, so too have the workers Joyce brought in via labour hire. 

“Because of this outsourcing approach that has been taken predominately by Qantas, we now have labour hire companies who have been squeezed of all these workers,” Kaine says.  

“Qantas has contracts with these companies, they squeeze every last dollar out of those contracts. That means the wages and conditions of these workers are very low.”   

Union members run the show for decent wages and conditions

But no matter how turbulent conditions have become at Qantas, workers in unions continue to stand against the profiteering of senior executives.  

Aviation is not the only industry where CEOs have pocketed huge pay while their employees struggle on low wages in the face of skyrocketing cost-of-living. Whether it be teachers, nurses or train drivers, we’ve seen union members come together to demand decent wages and safe conditions.  

As union members, our actions are never for the advancement of the individual alone. That’s why we act to make changes that benefit everyone. 

Let’s stand up for our rights together

P.S. While Have you been Joyced? is not a real show, aspiring film crew should join your union as the best next step in your career.  

Cover image credit: Aleksei Zhivilov on Unsplash

You ready to volunteer? Qantas is looking for baggage handlers!

You ready to volunteer? Qantas is looking for baggage handlers!