Suspended Qantas staff are bailing out the airline by being asked to use up leave balances, the Transport Workers Union has said.
Michael Kaine, the TWU’s national secretary, has insisted the airline should be paying for the downtime out of its reserves, not asking staff to contribute.
Earlier on Thursday, Qantas dramatically announced it was “standing down” two-thirds of its employees until “at least” the end of May, and asking them to use leave balances in order to ensure they can earn money during the coronavirus crisis.
Kaine said, “This plan is designed to wipe the slate clean on all worker entitlements, including long-service leave and accrued benefits. Astoundingly, Qantas even wants to reach into the future and grab as yet unearned leave entitlement.
“This will set the company up for a massive boost when the crisis is over, which will see shares go through the roof and executives back to massive bonuses. Meanwhile, workers will have lost the benefits that many worked so hard to build up.
“Qantas is not putting a cent forward of the reserves and equity it has built up to ensure workers maintain their pay and keep the leave they have built up, many to assist their retirement. They are shifting the entire burden of the impact of the coronavirus onto the workforce in a deal no doubt cooked up with the federal government, which has this week refused to meet workers and their representatives.
“Qantas has serious questions to answer, including how many workers will be forced to take unpaid leave and whether the airline will credit workers their leave back when the crisis abates.”
Qantas earlier urged staff to draw down annual and long-service leave during the suspension period. The business said it would offer up to four weeks leave pay in advance of it being accrued, and that “additional support mechanisms” would be available.