TWU lodges Federal Court case against Qantas over company’s decision to outsource 2,000 jobs
The main union representing aviation workers will launch a Federal Court case today over moves by Qantas to outsource more than 2,000 jobs.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers will on Wednesday file a test case for the Transport Workers Union (TWU) seeking to overturn Qantas’ decision to outsource the workers, saying the decision is unlawful under the Fair Work Act.
Qantas is outsourcing more than 2,000 roles across 10 airports after Jetstar already outsourced about 400 jobs.
Baggage handlers, ramp workers and cabin cleaners at airports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs and Canberra will lose their jobs.
The workers failed in a last-ditch bid to save their jobs, despite a plan from them that they said would have helped the company lower costs.
Qantas has said the move to outsource jobs is necessary in order to lower costs as it faces a financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic.
After suffering a $4 billion hit to its revenue in the 2020 financial year, the airline is expecting revenue to fall by $11 billion this financial year, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has said.
Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein, who is acting for the TWU, said the case would test whether Qantas’ recent actions in sacking workers and outsourcing their jobs was unlawful.
“This legal challenge will put outsourcing on trial,” Mr Bornstein said.
“If Qantas can replace thousands of its employees with cheaper, insecure labour hire employees then this can happen to any other employee in any Australian workplace.”
Has Qantas breached the Fair Work Act?
Mr Bornstein said by outsourcing this work, Qantas was seeking to avoid collective bargaining under the Fair Work Act.
“If the outsourcing proceeds, Qantas will no longer have to negotiate with the workers who perform the work,” he said.
“Instead, Qantas will be able to unilaterally impose a price for the services of outsourced workers, and those outsourced workers will not be allowed to bargain with Qantas under current IR laws.”
He said the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the plight of insecure labour hire and outsourced workers who were often not paid properly and worked in unsafe conditions.
And he said that while Qantas may have suffered a big financial loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, the court would test whether that was its real motive to outsource jobs.
“We will be asking the court to interrogate the real reason behind Qantas’ [outsourcing] decision,” Mr Bornstein said.
“There have been successful challenges to outsourcing in the past — cases on the waterfront — where we stopped outsourcing.”
He noted many major companies had been hit by the pandemic, but “Qantas is the only one who has taken this course”.
Qantas had also benefitted from more than $800 million in support from the Federal Government, Mr Bornstein said.
Union says it is taking a stand against Qantas’ management
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas workers were taking a stance against the airline’s management.
“We believe that not only is the move by Qantas management to kill off the jobs of 2,000 workers morally wrong, it is also illegal under the Fair Work Act,” Mr Kaine said.
“Qantas management is acting out of control, sacking workers who are united and who stand up to them when they try to drag down conditions and standards.”
A consortium of unions last month lost an appeal in the Federal Court to have Qantas pay sick leave to the due to COVID-19.
On Friday, unveiling some of their next financial steps towards recovery, Mr Joyce said it was unclear what shape the domestic economy would be in next year once broader government support was wound back.
He said international travel was unlikely to resume until July next year and it would take years to fully recover.
Mr Joyce said there was “a lot of repair work to do” on the company’s balance sheet.
Qantas Group posted a $2.7 billion loss for the 2020 financial year and suffered a $4 billion hit to its revenue.
Mr Joyce said with another revenue hit looming, the company had to make hard decisions.
“That’s why we remain focused on delivering on our recovery program, which unfortunately involves following through on some hard decisions to restructure and respond to the new set of circumstances we’re faced with,” Mr Joyce said.