Qantas is being taken to court over its bid to slash more than 2,000 jobs as it restructures during the pandemic

Qantas will shed 2,000 jobs if the court will let it. (James D. Morgan, Getty Images)
  • A federal court will decide whether Qantas is permitted to outsource more than 2,000 ground handling jobs.
  • On Wednesday, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) launched a case against the airline as it attempts to cut costs and restructure the business.
  • “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,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, regarding the cuts.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia’s biggest airline is facing legal intervention over its plan to shed jobs and overheads for a post-pandemic recovery.

On Wednesday, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) launched a federal court case against Qantas’ bid to outsource its entire ground handling workforce, amounting to more than 2,000 jobs across 10 airports.

“We believe that not only is the move by Qantas management to kill off the jobs of 2000 workers morally wrong it is also illegal under the Fair Work Act,” TWU national secretary Michael 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. This contravenes the Fair Work Act and we are pursuing Qantas over this breach.”

Qantas has rejected the claims, with a spokesperson telling Business Insider Australia that “outsourcing this work to specialist ground handlers who already do this work for us in other cities across the country is not unlawful”.

Last month, Qantas concluded a bidding round on how the airline could improve efficiency and slash costs, saying it had not found a viable alternative. Proposals from the TWU and individual airports were all rejected, with Qantas criticising the union’s ideas for lacking “sufficient practical detail”.

With both domestic and international travel ground to an effective halt during the pandemic, Qantas has been haemorrhaging cash, losing nearly $2 billion in the last financial year and sparking a new strategic direction to “rightsize” for a new operating environment.

The euphemism undoubtedly signalled a new era of cost cutting, with workers, jobs, and real estate all slated for the chopping board.

“Overall, we’re optimistic about the recovery but we’re also cautious given the various unknowns. We also have a lot of repair work to do on our balance sheet from the extra debt we’ve taken on to get through the past nine months,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said last week.

“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.”

To the TWU’s eternal frustration, these measures are going ahead despite significant taxpayer support.

“By now Qantas has received well over a billion dollars in public funding to keep it afloat during the pandemic. It has taken this public money and violated our laws, sacking workers and aiming to replace them with outside agencies which pay less,” Kaine said.

“The Federal Government and the Qantas board have refused to hold management to account over this. Workers are taking a stand against a spiteful management which pays itself bloated salaries and bonuses and then sacks workers.”

Federal MP Bob Katter slammed the outsourcing of jobs, affecting workers from Melbourne to Perth to Alice Springs, as a “national disgrace”.

It’s just the latest battlefront, after the union slammed it for misusing JobKeeper, called for Alan Joyce’s resignation, and lost its legal bid to force Qantas to pay sick leave to stood down workers.

Whether or not it has a legal leg to stand on this time around is now a matter for the court.