It turns out it was actually illegal for Qantas to sack 1,700 workers during the pandemic, just weeks after the company was accused of “slot hoarding”. Talk about a villain era. Just throw the whole company away.
The High Court judgment was handed down on Wednesday and backed rulings from the Federal Court, which found that it unlawfully outsourced the jobs of baggage handlers, cleaners, tug drivers and ground staff.
The redundancies saved Qantas around $100 million a year in operating costs, and staff felt Qantas had outsourced the work so it didn’t have to negotiate with them about their pay and conditions.
The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) had their back, and took Qantas to the Federal Court, where it was argued the decision to dump nearly 2,000 staff was made to avoid bargaining with these workers for a new enterprise agreement. It would also effectively stop them taking protected industrial action, since they wouldn’t be working there anymore.
Basically, it argued Qantas was, at least in part, motivated to cut all those workers so they wouldn’t be able to exercise their rights.
The Federal Court found this to be true, but Qantas appealed it, only for the High Court to agree.
And now Qantas will be slapped with a hefty compensation bill, and is also fielding calls for its chairman and board to resign.
“The airline cannot achieve the reset necessary for its survival under the same board that resided over the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian corporate history,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, per 9 News.
“Richard Goyder cannot make it through another day as chair.
“Qantas needs a fresh start. A worker voice on the board would make a significant difference and send the right signal that Qantas is serious about getting back on track.”
Mind you, this has all come out within weeks of the airline copping a class action suit for its refund policy regarding flights cancelled during the pandemic, accusations of slot hoarding (AKA the mass-booking of flights to stop competition selling any flights), and backlash over its decision to expire unredeemed Qantas and Jetstar points at the end of the year.
Basically, there’s been a *lot* of unexpected turbulence on this flight, and I don’t think it’s about to land any time soon.
Image: Getty Images / Scott Barbour