Almost half of ground crew illegally sacked by Qantas management are still struggling without a permanent job, with some relying on multiple precarious jobs to survive, according to a recent TWU survey of over 1,100 outsourced workers.
The findings come as understaffing causes chaos, delays, cancellations, and lost luggage.
Of the 47% of workers now unemployed or underemployed, well over half had more than 10 years’ experience and 71% worked in the baggage room or on the ramp loading luggage and cargo onto planes.
Of those who have found work, 70% said they’re worse off in their new jobs. Only a quarter have remained in aviation, while 43% had to retrain or reskill.
Although being found twice by the Federal Court to have illegally sacked nearly 2000 ground crew, Qantas management has refused to reinstate them and has instead relied on untrained office staff to volunteer in the baggage room as passengers suffer long delays and lost luggage.
The TWU is investigating claims that some outsourced workers have been blacklisted from airport jobs, with reports of experienced workers being rejected without explanation from third-party companies like Swissport and Dnata now responsible for ground handling at Qantas.
The survey also revealed the horrific strain the illegal sackings have had on workers’ finances, families and mental health.
Over 40% had to withdraw their super to pay the bills, while one in ten had to move in with family or friends. A quarter suffered a relationship breakdown from the stress.
A third have developed a mental health condition since the outsourcing, with one in eight requiring medication and one in six relying on professional help. Tragically, one in ten said they’ve experienced suicidal thoughts with many reporting feelings of worthlessness.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas management under Joyce has trashed its brand, driving a wedge between the public and once-loved airline, calling for his resignation.
“Qantas management would rather bring untrained office staff into the baggage room than admit to wrongdoing and rehire the workers with decades of experience it illegally turfed out of airports to avoid collective bargaining. This flies in the face of Qantas executives playing the covid victim. Flights are full, but passengers are stuck waiting because there aren’t enough workers to load their bags into the hold – meanwhile almost half of outsourced workers are still searching for a permanent job.
“The outsourcing has devastated families. Many have struggled to put a roof over their head, marriages have broken down, and tragically, some have seriously considered whether life is worth living. Who gains from this suffering? It’s not taxpaying passengers who bailed out the airline and it’s certainly not working people. With such extensive damage to the brand, shareholders aren’t fairing well either.
“Under Alan Joyce, Qantas management has put targets on the backs of its own workforce and blamed customers who are paying the price with airport delays. We now look to a post-Joyce Qantas to see if this damage can be repaired.
“Australians should brace for the same chaos during school holidays, Christmas, and full circle to Easter if standards are not lifted.
“We need to reset the power dynamic that sees overpaid executives pocket bonuses and exorbitant salaries, while workers and taxpayers are left to bail out airlines like Qantas with no return on investment through decent jobs and service standards. The Federal Government must urgently introduce a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebuild aviation, protect good jobs and see the industry through future shocks that are no stranger to airlines and airports,” Kaine said.
The TWU has slammed Qantas management for prolonging the suffering of workers with an attempt to appeal the unanimous decision of four Federal Court judges to the High Court.
Qantas is now reported to be Australia’s worst-performing airline, while disgruntled passengers have made their feelings known on Twitter and via a petition calling for Alan Joyce’s resignation.