Qantas has won the right to a final appeal against the Federal Court’s ruling that it was wrong to outsource 1,600 ground handlers.
In early 2021, the Flying Kangaroo moved to outsource ground handling operations at the 10 Australian airports where it was still running them in-house, including Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. This decision resulted in nearly 2,000 roles overall being made redundant.
The TWU brought the airline to court over the decision, and in August 2021, the Federal Court ruled that Qantas had violated parts of the Fair Work Act, and then rejected an initial appeal.
Qantas has consistently denied it did anything unlawful.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “While it is deeply disappointing for workers, it’s clear the High Court believes it’s in the public interest to hear such an extraordinary case which has sent shockwaves across the economy and plunged Qantas into chaos.
“Despite the ongoing crisis at the airline, overpaid executives stand by their illegal actions so vehemently they are dragging out a costly legal battle rather than reinstate or compensate the experienced workers who built the spirit of Australia.”
Qantas said on Friday it had always expressed its “deep regret” that roles were lost as a result of the pandemic.
“There was very little certainty about the pandemic and our recovery when we made this decision, and it remained that way for more than a year afterwards.
“We ultimately lost more than $25 billion in revenue, so it was inevitable that we had to take significant action.”
Upon its first victory in court, the TWU initially pushed for the employees to be allowed to come back to their old jobs, but a judge said a return would be impossible given the airline had already dismantled its Qantas Ground Services team and offloaded its equipment.
The appeal news comes after Qantas’ COVID changes helped result in a remarkable turnaround that means it’s now targeting an underlying profit before tax of up to $1.3 billion in the first half of the current financial year.
The result comes despite the wider group recording an underlying loss before tax of $1.86 billion in its last full-year results and claiming the pandemic cost its airlines $7 billion in total.
Earlier this month, Qantas AGM strongly backed a $4 million bonus package for chief executive Alan Joyce, despite reports one of three major ‘proxy firms’ told its members that the CEO’s targets weren’t “sufficiently challenging”.