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TWU: Suspended Qantas staff are bailing out airline

written by Adam Thorn | March 19, 2020

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.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and staff at the airline's Mascot campus. (Seth Jaworski)
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and staff at the airline’s Mascot campus. (Seth Jaworski)

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.

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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.”

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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.

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7 Comments

  • Red Cee

    says:

    Is Michael Kaine unaware that there is a crisis? If Qantas, or any other airline gave it’s staff additional fully funded leave, they would be out of business, and all the workers out of a job. Michael Kaine clearly needs a reality check.

  • Rickdan

    says:

    Typical union moron.
    Qantas has no customers idiot, so you expect them to keep paying everyone to do nothing.

    AJ has made the tough call he needed to, at least they are getting there entitlements now, watch what happens in a few days or weeks when Virgin goes under, they’ll get nothing as Virgin is on the brink of insolvent trading now.

    Tough times need tough leaders, well done AJ, Qantas is lucky to have a strong and brave leader at the helm.

    • delila

      says:

      What’s there to congratulate AJ about. He earned 24 Million last year and yet the company doesn’t even have enough cash reserves to keep his employees in a job for 6 months. Surely if you are worth being paid 24 million you would have enough foresight to plan for a crisis situation, it’s not like this is the first time the travel industry has had this kind of impact. People who actually save lives don’t earn even 10% of that.

  • Peter

    says:

    Agree with comments above.

    Qantas reserves will not be untouched. How do people think they will otherwise pay for current aircraft financing, rent etc. . Nobody is going to forgive them those payments due.

    Airlines are in critical survival mode. In most countries there will be sizeable government bailouts – otherwise the businesses will quickly perish. Airlines are not high margin businesses and they have a large percentage of fixed costs.

    The head of the TWU has just demonstrated that he is a moron. I wonder if he is taking a pay cut? I’ll wager he isn’t. Seems that he is in the business of putting his members out of work on a permanent basis

  • Steve

    says:

    Gee, if only they hadn’t spent billions over the last few years buying shares back, EPS rises, bonuses all round! All for short term incentives. Imagine if it was spent on more fuel efficient aircraft, they might have even had a little war chest to help the company through a very tough time. As S&P said “Qantas has used surplus capital to fund shareholder returns rather than grow invested capital. Now the tide has gone out we can all see who was swimming naked!

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    One can’t help feeling for VA, – in recent times their troubled waters were easing then along came HKG and now that virus! of course more pain will be experienced both operationally and within their personnel ranks at all levels but to say it will fail I believe is over the top, it will be close though. VAH is not Australian owned, it is trading on the ASX but essentially the primary owners are EY and SQ totalling 41% with Chinese interests making up 39.87% and our flamboyant Sir Richard coming in with 10.02%. You would have to believe that Dicky would side with EY and SQ thus having a 51% majority so with their current share price a tad ordinary, to me, now is the time for an enthusiastic Ozzie entrepreneur to make a bid for the Chinese holdings and thus keep that flag flying here. Not to do so, well, not likely that SQ would loose interest but, EY, that is a different matter. It is game of huge stakes and one can’t help but feel for the players actually making the operation work during these troubled times.

  • Delila

    says:

    Yes all the above is true and it’s also true that they should stop paying executives ludicrous salaries and be required to have enough cash reserves during these tough times to ensure that their employees (who are the ones that actually keep this company afloat) are looked after during this difficult time. It would be like leaving your children to starve to death on the street so that the parents could continue to eat lobster each night. Corporate governance requires a complete overhaul.

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