December 17, 2021


Following July’s Federal Court finding that Qantas illegally outsourced workers, the court will move on to compensation for workers as the primary remedy, with Qantas also set to face penalty hearings for its illegal conduct.

The court did not order Qantas to reinstate the jobs of the workers. The TWU will appeal that decision, arguing that reinstatement is an appropriate and just remedy to provide workers stability, restore their dignity and self-worth, while remedying Qantas’s illegal outsourcing act which the court found was perpetrated to avoid workers exercising their industrial rights to collectively bargain and take industrial action.

Further hearings to determine the extent of compensation and penalties on Qantas are also due to take place next year.

Justice Lee acknowledged that the mental toll on workers who have lost the dignity and self-worth of employment will not be remedied by anything other than reinstatement. However, the Federal Court ruling found that Qantas would do no more than legally obligated, requiring ‘constant supervision’ of Qantas’s compliance with the orders and causing uncertainty to workers. This follows the airline’s claim it would refuse to recreate its ground handling business and would retrench the workers again.

This was by far the largest reinstatement case ever before the Federal Court of Australia with no former precedent set to guide reinstatement orders at such scale.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the finding against reinstatement would be disappointing for workers who just want to go back to the jobs they love.

“This finding brings a sad end to a year of unimaginable anguish for unlawfully sacked workers and their families. The TWU is undeterred in its belief that these workers deserve their jobs back. We will appeal and continue the fight for justice alongside the ongoing matters of compensation and penalties on Qantas.

“Qantas treats the law like a voluntary code because it believes it can get away with it, in no small part due to the exorbitant no-strings corporate welfare provided by the Morrison Government. Scott Morrison trumpets the importance of jobs but refuses to attach job security conditions to federal money and refuses to fix laws to stop companies like Qantas getting away with the illegal outsourcing of thousands.”

“Although the court admonished Qantas and intends to ensure compensation and penalties will remedy their unlawful behaviour, the finding against reinstatement fails to bring management into line by accepting that the mess made by Qantas is too difficult to unscramble. The TWU will fight this decision,” he said.

During this week’s hearings, the court heard from two tearful Qantas workers that the outsourcing had caused them severe depression, with one unable to socialise for months and another needing professional help and medication to help him cope with the distress.

Qantas has appealed the decision that the outsourcing was illegal, with expedited appeal hearings due to take place in February.

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