In 2020, Qantas sacked 1,700 ground crew at the height of the pandemic.
Last week, in a historic victory for unionists and workers, the Federal Court’s ruling was upheld: Qantas are responsible for the largest case of illegal sackings in Australia’s history, and it’s time for them to take responsibility.
It’s a massive win for the union members who led the charge through a lengthy legal battle.
This is a huge win for workers today. This shows what workers can do when they stand together through thick and thin.Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary
It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this achievement.
Qantas has become the poster child for exploiting loopholes and actively suppressing the wages and conditions of workers.
The onus is now on Qantas to take responsibility for the illegal sackings, and regain the trust not only of its workers, but of the Australian public.
A ruling in favour of working people
Qantas’ appeal was based on the argument that its decision to sack 1,700 workers was for ‘sound commercial reasons’ after its business plummeted more than 90% during the pandemic.
Yes, this is the same Qantas that received over $2.7 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies during the pandemic, and just recently posted an annual profit of $2.4 billion.
Once again, this time in the High Court, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) pointed towards the staggering rise in complaints – almost 70% in 2022 – as a result of Qantas outsourcing its baggage handlers and cleaners.
Ultimately the TWU won the case by demonstrating that Qantas had orchestrated the layoffs for the purpose of heading off the potential of future post-pandemic industrial action – a clear breach of the Fair Work Act.
If the Qantas ruling demonstrates anything, it’s that when workers unionise, change comes for the better.
The ruling is a case of justice being served but, as TWU Secretary Michael Kaine said, ‘These workers should not have had to go all the way to the High Court to get justice. The bill Federal Parliament has before them must be urgently passed so this can’t happen in the first place.’
Industrial reform is essential to better protect workers, and to prevent big business from exploiting loopholes to drive down wages. Stronger laws will ensure there won’t be a next time.
This is not only a turning point for industrial reform, but it’s a union win that highlights both the importance of fairness in the workplace (no matter what industry you’re in) and how crucial it is that we close the loopholes that employers like Qantas are exploiting to drive down workers’ wages and conditions.