A hearing will be held today to determine if unions will be granted leave to appeal to the High Court on behalf of Qantas workers who were ripped off overtime and penalty rates when the airline abused the JobKeeper scheme.
Qantas workers who worked weekends, public holidays and long shifts experienced wage theft when the airline manipulated rosters to absorb their earned entitlements into JobKeeper payments, avoiding paying them a cent over the basic subsidy.
Unions have taken the case to the High Court after Qantas successfully appealed a decision which ordered the airline to pay workers back thousands of dollars in stolen entitlements. The appeal resulted in a dissenting judgment in the Federal Court which backed the airline two-to-one.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said workers have suffered disproportionately under callous Qantas management.
“Qantas took advantage of the pandemic to steal from the pockets of aviation workers who were under enormous financial pressure and uncertainty over their jobs. What they’re owed means a great deal to these workers but pales in comparison to the $2 billion of taxpayer funding paid to the airline whose executives earned millions while workers were refused their sick leave and penalty rates. At every turn, Qantas management has sought to kick workers while they’re down, axing thousands of jobs, downplaying the deadly virus and pilfering wages. We hope the High Court will see the seriousness of Qantas’ actions and its impact on hardworking families,” Kaine said.
ASU Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske said Qantas workers deserve to be compensated for time away from their families.
“We are standing up and taking court proceedings against this massive abuse of trust, by Qantas. This scheme relied on working staff to the bone one week and delaying their legal overtime and penalty payments to the following week, while the staff member was rostered off. In a nutshell, it meant Qantas avoided paying thousands in overtime payments to workers. This was a tricky and illegal manipulation of JobKeeper to syphon-off funds away from workers and back into the company bottom line – it is thoroughly unethical and illegal,” Gaske said.
FAAA Federal Secretary Teri O’Toole said workers have stood strong against Qantas’ damaging behaviour.
“This is the last chance for Qantas workers who’ve missed out on their entitlements for more than a year to be paid what they have earned. The workers who have turned up and worked should not have to fight to get what they deserve. It is shameful that they need to hold Qantas to account over its use of the funds from a scheme which was intended to support wages, not give companies a means to steal them,” O’Toole said.
After Qantas lost the original court case, the airline along with the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia lobbied the Morrison Government to change the Jobkeeper rules to allow the rip-off of workers’ wages.
Axed Qantas workers await a Federal Court decision over the outsourcing of 2,500 ground workers. It followed a rejection by Qantas of a bid by its own workers for their jobs, a bid which was assisted by EY and included millions in cost savings for the airline.
A number of serious safety breaches have been reported in Qantas’ supply chain since the ground work was outsourced, including a damaged plane which last week took off with passengers on board after being hit by a baggage vehicle.