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Dnata says 4,500 jobs ‘at risk’ by JobKeeper omission

written by Adam Thorn | May 5, 2020

Dnata press shot
Dnata fears its exclusion from JobKeeper will harm its chance of surviving the coronavirus crisis (Dnata)

The Treasury’s decision to exclude dnata from JobKeeper payments has put 4,500 jobs at risk, Australian Aviation can reveal.

The catering and ground handling business claims the Tax Office originally said it could apply for the aid, but then reversed its decision because the company is owned by a foreign government.

A dnata spokesperson said, “The application of the scheme was critical to the company’s Australian employees, as it meant that we could reinstate previously stood down workers, and keep the rest of the workforce employed.”

Dnata is owned by the Emirates Group, which is in turn run by the state government of Dubai.

However, an apparent recent change to the JobKeeper package which provides struggling Australian businesses with $1,500 per employee, per fortnight means businesses owned by a “sovereign entity” are excluded.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the government’s decision to retrospectively amend the JobKeeper legislation,” said the spokesperson. “This change, at short notice and backdated to 30 March, excludes dnata, an employer of 6,000 Australians from the JobKeeper scheme.

“The exclusion puts over 4,500 jobs at risk, while leaving employees and their families without income with extremely short notice. 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.”


Dnata insisted it pays corporate, employee and social taxes and has invested more than $300 million into Australia over the past 13 years. It also claims the omission has created an uneven playing field against its competitors that are eligible for the scheme.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “We are writing to the Treasurer today to urgently examine this loophole and its unintended consequences. There are specific cases, such as the Emirates Group, where foreign governments retain a big stake in their aviation sectors which now employ many workers in Australians. We are hopeful the government can recognise this situation and rectify it.

“Not only will this hurt workers in Australia it will also hamper efforts to get air travel back up and running when restrictions lift, impacting on our economy. Companies like dnata carry out behind the scenes work at our airports which gets aircraft into the sky. Their work is vital and thousands depend on it.”


In response, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s office confirmed the rule, saying “a sovereign entity is not a qualifying employer for the purposes of JobKeeper payment”.

A partner of 46 airlines, dnata offers ground handling, cargo and catering services in Australia.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the business handled 300,000 tons of cargo, supported more than 7 million passengers and uplifted 64 million in-flight meals annually at nine Australian airports.

Comments (25)

  • Richard


    Boo boo – these people have driven everyone else out and hiked up prices, it’s a bit rich to now cry poor. They are owned by the richest man in the world, the Sovereign ruler of Dubai (or better described as Emirates) – if they can’t pay, sell the business or go under like every other company in Australia.

    Take a hike

    • Paul Merritt


      Richard, DNATA will not go under but it will axe 4,500 jobs and re-hire as and when required. I’m sure those staff that will be laid off will appreciate your comments.

    • Rob


      Richard, DNATA will be fine, it’s the 4,500 employees that they will stand down without pay who will lose out.

  • Anna


    Boo boo – Thousands of Australians not knowing if they have job to return too or not having any income to live or survive. You should be the one to take a hike!

    The government bailed out Qantas with millions of dollars the company who sold most of the catering businesses to Dnata.

    • Mark


      Are you saying a Company cannot sell part of its’ business, if it wants to?

      That’s NOT how ‘business’ works. What the sold-to Company does is of no concern requirement of the selling Company.

  • Paul Robson


    Agree 100%
    If they need financial help, let their government do it!

  • Paul


    @Richard liked your comment. Like Virgin (foreign owned) why should taxpayers bail them out?

  • Shane


    Agree 100% Richard. They outbid other ground handlers to get contracts. Dnata ask you King for some cash or maybe he could sell his 747-8.

    • David


      Swissport are the ones undercutting everyone, not dnata.

  • Lee


    It will not “hamper efforts to get air travel back up and running when restrictions lift” at all. Our airlines can do their own ground handling and employ just as may people.

  • Bronco Bob


    Well it appears the company is crying poor. one of the biggest ground handlers in the world.
    If the boot was on the other foot,our company would get zilch,naught,zero

  • Ralph Treasure


    I guess Centrelink is about to get busier then. These are Australian workers who have been paying Australian tax. Centrelink or Jobkeeper……..We will be paying.

  • Peter


    The Government has the right policy. No real difference between DNATA and Virgin except the DNATA workers will have a job to come back to.

  • Steve A


    The exit of dnata would create opportunities for Australian companies to take up. Workers at any UAE company are just numbers. If dnata doesn’t do the work then the void will soon be filled. Workers who lose jobs will still be needed by another operator and qualify individually for Government support in the meantime. The sale of Snap Fresh and Q Catering by Qantas was part of its asset-stripping program that included the Qantas terminal facilities at both SYD and MEL, to boost its “profits” to give the appearance of being well-managed. This was mirrored by its asset-ageing program that has seen billions of dollars of underspending on new aircraft which has resulted in a blowout of the Qantas fleet age. Shareholders have been abused with 7 years without dividends and only an average annual dividend payment of 8 cps during the current CEO’s regime. Changes need to happen at the top of Qantas sooner rather than later.

  • Brad


    Foriegn ownership or not, they are Australians contributing to the Australian economy and likely to have done so and paid their taxes for many years and are now suffering just like everyone else! FFS! This is absolutely pathetic! What makes this even worse is that Dnata was given written approval from the ATO before they backtracked their decision! Why don’t they just come clean and admit that the JK budget has blown out way beyond their expectations!

  • Rod Pickin


    The arrival a few years ago of independent Ground Handling Companies was as a direct result of airlines behavior; the days when the majors looked after each other as “handling agents” was good for all because the costs of supplying labour and equipment to your customer airlines which when recouped from them was a healthy financial benefit to the service providers balance sheet and profit margins. Understandably in a competitive market airlines wanted more self identification rather than visibly being identified with the other “brand” and so, independent ground handling companies evolved and lets face it, there have been a few, not all standing today. The biggest I understand today is DNATA and yes, I know who owns it but others had the opportunity to start up as well but for whatever reason they didn’t. I think the airlines concerned were the winners here, they offloaded their staff, they certainly wouldn’t have given away their owned ground handling equipment and they had far less H.R. problems, the award conditions would become someone else’s problem so the savings would have been huge. I often wonder, did the airline/s sell the rights to ground handling to the applicants or was it just a plain fee for service basis contract. Certainly a large number of the previously employed airline staff were taken on by these new handling operators and so I truly think that the Oz. Govt. should rethink their decision on job support in this area because the incumbents are victims of the change by companies and not of their own volition. At the same time, I do ask that folk think of their counterparts employed in same/similar roles elsewhere, ( I don’t ,like it) but there are guys and gals working downtown in another place and then on call at the airport for just a three hour fee for service; I have personal experience there so thank your lucky stars you are here in Oz.

  • Bobby


    Bailed out Rex, they are foreign owned.
    Wake up Australian Government!

  • Jim


    Government Bailed out Rex and they are foreign owners. Australian Government needs to wake up!

  • Mark


    So with that way of thinking, are Virgin Australia staff entitled to the Job Keeper allowance because more than 90% of the airline is “foreign owned”. I wouldn’t think so. They’re tax paying employees of a company that’s foreign owned. We could have Dnata employees that previously worked for Qantas Catering for 20, 30, 40 years and woke up one morning to find they now work for Dnata, and now find themselves not entitled to the Job Keeper allowance. I’m not talking about the government bailing out Dnata, I’m talking about the government helping those tax paying Australians with the Job Keeper payments.

  • Barry bobs


    Dnata have paid their taxes here for 13years their aussie workforce have done the same for a sight longer….our government should support its citizens in unknown times

  • iamwal


    The vast majority of you have missed the point: The JobKeeper allowance goes to the employees, via the company, not the company. Dont pay JB, employees terminated, Pay JK and employee has some chance of retaining job, and an income stream fir the period of the JK plan. And the prospect of re employment in the aviation industry in the short to medium term, is daunting.

  • Maria


    Agreed… the jobkeeper payments are for employees… Not the company… DNATA paid their employees even though they were stood down due to the information they received saying their staff were eligible… I know this for a fact as my husband is one of those employees…. by not giving DNATA the jobkeeper his and all of the other jobs are at risk…. the employees are Australian citizens and residents and pay tax like the rest of us… they should be entitled to this subsidy like the rest of us

  • Brad Foran



    Its just a bad situation for all people involved in aviation or affiliated industries. I’m getting out, its to vulnerable and volatile for me…good luck

  • Kyran Butcher


    My 23 yr old son who has been cut to 4 hrs per week and is now not eligible for any assistance would like to talk to you about the boo hoo statement Richard – it isn’t just about balance sheets and dividends and foreign ownership. I can guarantee he would like you to fell some of his pain!

  • Janet Edwards


    My hubby has been stood down as well. He pays Australian taxes. How long is it legal for a company to STAND DOWN their employees. Is D’Nata just waiting for their staff to resign out of sheer desperation for work/money SO THAT THEY DON’T HAVE TO FORK OUT MONEY for retrenchment/redundancy payments. I am sure the Sheik (owner) in in the UAE isn’t having any money issues!!!! WHY DON’T THEY JUST DO THE RIGHT THING BY THEIR EMPLOYEES???????

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