Transport union calls for Qantas compensation after High Court ruling

September 19, 2023
Qantas received $2.7 billion in subsidies during the pandemic. Image: Green Left

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said Qantas chair Richard Goyder, along with the board should be sacked, after the High Court on September 13 unanimously upheld two Federal Court rulings that Qantas had illegally sacked 1700 workers during the pandemic in 2020.

Former baggage handler Damien Pollard said the High Court decision was “a fairy tale come true”.

The TWU said a worker representative should join a new board which commits to a “speedy and non-adversarial approach” to compensation and penalty hearings. It also wants new CEO Vanessa Hudson to publicly apologise to the sacked workers.

Three unanimous rulings from the Federal and High Courts found Qantas had breached the Fair Work Act by sacking workers and rehiring some from a labour hire firm, where workers cannot collectively bargain or take protected industrial action.

Qantas’ service has nose-dived since the sackings. Complaints rose 70% last year, amid high cancellations, delays and lost baggage.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine commended the workers’ determination to hold Qantas to account.

“It has been three years and 20 days since [then Qantas CEO] Alan Joyce first announced the decision to outsource these workers, and they have not stopped fighting ...The final act of this board should be to strip Alan Joyce of his bonuses and follow him out the door.”

Kaine said having a worker on its board would signal that Qantas is serious about reform.

“All eyes will be on Vanessa Hudson as she responds to this verdict. Illegally sacked workers are owed an apology and an end to Qantas’ attempts to delay paying compensation and penalties.”

The TWU said MPs must urgently pass “Closing the Loopholes” amendments to the Fair Work Act to stop corporations, such as Qantas, from being able to create labour hire companies which can legally pay workers up to 30% less than directly employed colleagues.

Kaine said Labor should set up an independent commission to “ensure aviation decisions are made in the interests of workers, customers and the public”.

Qantas recorded a record $2.5 billion pre-tax profit in August and revealed passenger revenue had jumped 32% since before the pandemic.

Qantas received $2.7 billion in subsidies during the pandemic: it received more than $856 million in JobKeeper subsidies — the highest amount paid to any company. By August 2021, 9400 employees had left following large-scale redundancies and outsourcing.

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