A High Court Hearing will today put outsourcing on trial as Qantas attempts to overturn two Federal Court rulings that found its axing of 1700 ground and fleet presentation workers was unlawfully intended to prevent workers accessing their rights to collectively bargain and take possible protected industrial action.
A delegation of outsourced workers has traveled to Canberra from Sydney for the Hearing.
Workers have been out of their jobs for over two years after Qantas rushed through the outsourcing process, completed in March 2021 despite a Federal Court challenge brought by the TWU already underway.
The Federal Court judgment in the union’s favour referred to evidence showing Qantas saw the pandemic as a “vanishing window of opportunity” to outsource the jobs.
The mass exodus of skilled and experienced workers has caused major airport chaos and serious safety breaches at the outsourced labour providers. These third party operations pay workers less and have struggled to fill enormous worker shortages.
In September, the TWU exposed a dossier of potentially life-threatening safety incidents at Swissport including undocumented dangerous goods loaded onto planes, firearms unloaded onto baggage carousels, stairs removed while passenger doors were open, aircraft weight imbalances, cargo doors left open before take-off, and collisions with refuelling hoses.
An ACCC report showed complaints against Qantas rose 68 per cent for FY22, while complaints about Virgin Australia fell 27 per cent. Qantas has also nosedived in Roy Morgan’s “Net Trust” ratings, falling 31 places from 9th to 40th most trusted brand.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the High Court will determine once and for all whether Qantas management’s appalling axing of essential workers was also the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian history.
“Workers have stood strong for the long-haul throughout this painful and drawn-out battle. While some of the workers will be present in Canberra, the eyes of the nation will also be watching this last-ditch attempt by Qantas to disprove that it illegally sacked 1700 workers.
“There are few who have not been affected by the cruel conduct of the Joyce-led Qantas management team. Workers and their families had lifelong careers ripped away from them, passengers lost the safety and service standards they deserve, and workers across the country now feel the threat of their own job being outsourced to the lowest bidder.
“The High Court’s decision to grant leave for this case to be heard highlights the significance and enormity of this matter, in what could be the largest unlawful mass sacking this country has ever seen.
“Whatever the outcome, workers must be applauded for their courage. Their commitment to justice has sent a warning signal to employers up and down the country. Working people will not stand for their jobs being deliberately splintered and sold off to the lowest common denominator to avoid them exercising their legal rights associated with negotiating fair pay and conditions.
“This ordeal has been a total calamity for workers, passengers and taxpayers who propped up Qantas during the pandemic with record JobKeeper and other corporate welfare payments while it brutally pushed workers out the door and into Centrelink lines. This race to the bottom driven by Joyce-led Qantas shows the urgent need for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to set fair and appropriate standards for aviation,” he said.
Principal Lawyer Giri Sivaraman said, “Qantas lost this case on the facts. Now it’s trying a legal argument to get the High Court to reduce protections in the Fair Work Act to make its actions lawful. If Qantas wins, protections for all workers across Australia will be reduced.”
Qantas recently reported a record $1.4 billion half-year profit, more than double the profit reported in February 2020 prior to the pandemic.
Alan Joyce is set to receive a $24 million pay packet this year when he steps down, despite the brand damage, poor performance and illegal sackings at the airline during his tenure as CEO.