Qantas slammed for outsourcing workers while accepting JobKeeper

Courtney GouldNCA NewsWire
Qantas executives have been quizzed by a senate inquiry into job secuirty. NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Camera IconQantas executives have been quizzed by a senate inquiry into job secuirty. NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett Credit: News Corp Australia

Qantas has defended a decision to sack 2000 workers, telling a parliamentary inquiry the workforce would not be required in the life beyond the pandemic.

The airline last year outsourced more than 2000 ground staff in a bid to lower costs as Qantas took a financial battering thanks to Covid-19.

Addressing a parliamentary inquiry on job security, Qantas was pressed over its decision to lay off workers despite receiving approximately $1.6 billion in federal support.

Group Executive, Corporate Affairs Andrew McGinnis told Senators the funding was not conditional on keeping workers in jobs.

“Is there any condition of that funding that requires Qantas not to outsource or to consult the government before making any outsourcing decision? So you're completely free to take these actions regardless of the government assistance?” Senator Matt Canavan asked.

Pic of Plane Arriving
Camera IconQantas says it has accepted approximately $1.6 billion in federal government support. Mark Stewart Credit: News Corp Australia

“In terms of the ground handlers decision, there was no requirement for us to consult with government on that,” Mr McGinnis replied.

That support included JobKeeper assistance and fee-for-service for conducting repatriation and freight flights.

“A large proportion of it went obviously to support our people directly who were stood down … the other component has been fee for service,” he said.

Labor Senator Tony Sheldon took issue with the outsourcing, citing JobKeeper’s design to keep workers in jobs.

“Wasn't the intention of JobKeeper was to keep workers connected? And now we’ve got 2000 workers that were outsourced,” he asked the aviation giant.

“I think the purpose of the job keeper was to keep people connected to jobs that have a life beyond the pandemic,” Mr McGinnis said.

“And our view of the ground handling roles where, unfortunately, because of the changes we need to make in our business overall, those jobs were not sustainable beyond the pandemic.”

“So any company who got JobKeeper can follow exactly the same outrageous arrangements that you guys did, by turning around and dismissing 2000 workers? Is that correct?,” Senator Sheldon peppered back.

“We knew that we would be in a very large hole with Covid. And it would take years to repair. So business as usual for us was not an option, we could not sit by and wait.”

Camera IconQantas earlier this year was found to have breached the Fair Work Act for the outsourcing of staff. NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett Credit: News Corp Australia

He added the outsourcing of ground handlers was landed upon over concerns of efficiency.

“So we made that decision in terms of grant handling, because overall, it would result in a far more efficient operation, not about wages,” Mr McGinnis said.

In a submission to the parliamentary inquiry, the Transport Workers Union alleged Mr Joyce told then-union official Scott Connolly wages of ground staff was a major concern.

“Pay relativity needs to reflect the reality that, globally, Qantas can pay ground handling staff in foreign ports as little as $4.00 per hour,” the submission said.

A Federal Court in July ruled Qantas had breached the Fair Work Act by outsourcing ground crew work. Justice Michael Lee found Qantas failed to prove the outsourcing was purely a commercial decision.

The Federal Court is currently dealing with issues relating to remedies that should be granted in favour of the employees affected.

The TWU has called on the government to respond to the issue by establishing a tribunal to set appropriate standards in the industry and to develop a national plan for the aviation sector that would protect jobs.

Originally published as Qantas slammed for outsourcing workers while accepting JobKeeper

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