Emirates is threatening to stand down 4,500 Australian staff after the federal government excluded it from JobKeeper

Emirates Airlines subsidiary dnata says 4,500 Australian jobs are at risk. (May James, SOPA Images, LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • Emirates Group is urging the government to reconsider its exemption from the JobKeeper program, saying that without it 4,500 jobs are at risk at its airport service provider dnata.
  • In a statement, the Dubai National Air Transport Association told Business Insider Australia it was initially told by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) it was eligible before having the rug pulled out from under it.
  • Citing its record of paying Australian corporate tax and investing locally, the Emirati company asked for the government to be included under the wage subsidy so it could keep paying staff.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Thousands of Australian airline jobs are at risk after the federal government’s Jobkeeper program exempted Emirates from receiving the $1500 per fortnight wage subsidy.

Emirates Group’s exclusion comes on the basis that its owned wholly-owned by the United Arab Emirates government, negating it and its service subsidiary dnata (Dubai National Air Transport Association) eligibility.

“The exclusion of dnata from the JobKeeper scheme puts over 4,500 jobs at risk, while leaving employees and their families without income with extremely short notice,” a dnata spokesperson told Business Insider Australia in a statement. “As a result, we are also forced to review medium, and long-term viability of dnata’s various Australian businesses including catering, cargo, ground handling, retail and hospitality.”

Fulfiling airport services, the Emirati company said it was “surprised and disappointed” after the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) originally signalled it would be eligible before going back on the position. Boasting its employment of 6,000 Australians and its contribution to the local economy, dnata argues it shouldn’t be overlooked as the aviation industry faces enormous turbulence.

“As an Australian resident company, dnata pays corporate, employee and social taxes and various other contributions to the government in Australia. Over the past 13 years, dnata has invested $300 million in people, infrastructure and technologies in Australia,” a spokesperson said, including the $150 million acquisition of Qantas’ catering businesses in 2018 and the opening of a $6.5 million catering facility in Canberra in 2019 in that figure.

While a quarter of local jobs appear secure, the remainder are at risk, dnata claims, urging the government to reconsider its position.

The request, however, seems likely to fall on deaf ears after the Virgin Australia saga in which the Morrison government repeatedly rejected the notion of coming to the aid of a foreign-owned airline.

“The government was not going to bail out five large foreign shareholders with deep pockets who together own 90% of this airline,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said at the time regarding calls for it to bail out Virgin.

While Emirates Group isn’t asking for a bailout as such, it would certainly fail the foreign ownership test. If the government doesn’t renege – and dnata isn’t bluffing – it will see 4,500 more Australians go onto JobSeeker payments where they will receive up to $1,100 per fortnight, depending on personal circumstances.

Given the obstacles facing airlines of all stripes, they likely won’t be the last jobs left up in the air.

Treasury was contacted for comment.


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