TWU vows to fight Qantas sacking of 2500 workers

Photo: Mailer_diablo GFDL / CC BY-SA 3.0

Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary Michael Kaine hit out at Qantas’ announcement on November 30 that 2500 baggage handlers, ground crew and cabin cleaners would “face the axe”, saying they would be replaced with workers on lower pay and conditions.

“The pandemic has been very tough on airlines and aviation, but what Qantas is doing is different: documents show this was planned 10 years ago. Qantas is deliberately targeting this group of workers.”

Qantas announced 6000 redundancies in August.

TWU members protested at airports in Sydney, Adelaide, Queensland, Perth and Darwin and have also targeted MPs offices and Parliament House in Canberra. The union opened a campaign headquarters next door to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office in Cronulla, New South Wales. 

Qantas rejected a plan by the TWU to retain existing staff in its workforce restructure, originally proposed in August. Kaine said the workers’ bid, produced with consulting firm EY, was thorough, competitive and delivered millions of dollars in savings. 

Kaine said Qantas’ decision will “hurt the airline deeply”. Qantas said it will put the jobs out to tender, to companies such as Swissport, where workers are paid at below award rates.

“Qantas has spent hundreds of millions in training these workers up over decades to achieve high standards, and the idea of pushing them out the door to replace them with less trained workers on lower conditions is sickening", he said. 

“Families across Australia are now facing a grim Christmas, where the future lies at the end of a Centrelink queue.”

The TWU wants Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to resign. It has also criticised the federal government for squandering more than half a billion dollars in pandemic assistance.

Qantas received $267 million through the JobKeeper supplement and $248 million through direct government assistance.

“Qantas has taken millions in JobKeeper wage subsidies — more than any other company — with the express intent of keeping people employed,” said Kaine. “But now Alan Joyce wants to destroy thousands more livelihoods. This is callous abuse of public money.”

The TWU also wants the prime minister to make Qantas accountable for “its misuse of taxpayers’ money” and a national plan for aviation that includes saving jobs.

Kaine said the mass sackings will destroy standards and “introduce a rip-off Ryanair model where neither workers nor passengers are protected”.

Qantas workers are paying the price for the Bob Hawke-Paul Keating Labor government’s privatisation of the formerly public airline in the early 1990s.

[You can support the Qantas workers campaign here.]