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Qantas staff bidding for jobs not given fair go, says EY

written by Adam Thorn | September 17, 2020

A file image of Qantas aircraft at Sydney Airport. (Rob Finlayson)
A file image of Qantas aircraft at Sydney Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

The TWU will present a report to the Fair Work Commission by Ernst & Young that will argue ground handlers bidding to keep their jobs haven’t been given a realistic chance of success.

The union commissioned the professional services firm to assess the competitive process and it concluded Qantas management needs to give staff more information on cost savings and provide an assessment on how it will maintain standards if it cuts costs.

Qantas has repeatedly denied the claims and said in response that the TWU is “misrepresenting the situation”, “misleading its members” and will “vigorously defend” the union’s claims.

Last month, Qantas announced 2,000 more jobs are at risk because the business is considering outsourcing its remaining ground-handling operations, subject to hearing bids from both private contractors as well as in-house staff.

Qantas’ plans would see the airline brand remove operations at the 10 Australian airports where the work is done in-house, which includes Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville.

Before a final decision is made, the company is giving staff the chance to compile an in-house bid to rival those made by external organisations.

The TWU, however, has concerns over that process and last week began taking Qantas to a Fair Work Commission tribunal where it argued employees haven’t been given enough time to prepare their alternative proposal.


“We will tell the Fair Work Commission today that Qantas management has deliberately set an unfair process and we will ask for workers to have more time and more information to bid for their jobs,” the union’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, said.

“Qantas management is using the pandemic to prey on the community. It is being pumped with public money to keep it alive, it has set a bidding war among the states desperate to boost jobs to relocate its headquarters and it is axing and outsourcing jobs.”

Qantas earlier said in response that “no decision has been made” yet and that “employee representatives will be provided paid time off as well as support from subject matter experts within the business to respond to the proposal and prepare an in-house bid”.


Earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported how the TWU has hired the heavyweight lawyer who helped win the infamous Waterfront dispute to challenge Qantas’ proposed job cuts.

The union said it would hire Josh Bornstein because of the apparent similarities between this case and the 1997 Waterfront dispute, which saw seaport operator Patrick Corporation dismiss its unionised workforce.

The decision was later found to be illegal in the Federal Court.

The lawyer was also recently awarded the “Workplace Relations Partner of the Year 2019” at the Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year Awards and has been ranked as Victoria’s top employment lawyer for employees.

His clients have included broadcaster Ross Stevenson, publisher Louise Adler, the State of Victoria, Essendon Football Club and writers Marieke Hardy and Clementine Ford.

Comments (14)

  • mike


    qantas MUST reduce costs to compete with rex & virgin mark 2, who already have much lower costs. Unions have stuffed it for qantas employees.

  • Peter Stupuras


    I find Alan Joyce’s choice of words amusing, to say that the TWU is “misrepresenting the situation”, “misleading it’s members” is laughable, when he can’t even be upfront and truthful about his intentions to sell off Qantas, our national airline bit by bit so it’s not noticed, and the sad thing is our government is choosing to turn a blind eye, if anyone is “misrepresenting the situation” or “misleading the public and the government” it’s Alan Joyce.

    P.S. A.J. may well be a good businessman but he is a far better liar.

  • Brian Jackson


    Qantas stopped flying to Manchester because the ground handling contractors delayed the aircraft all the time.
    TAA tried contract cleaners and it was a disaster with aircraft not properly cleaned.
    Contractors are a dead loss.

  • Wayne


    The TWU is spending members’ fees like there’s no tomorrow….
    About time ACCC(?) looked into this.
    It’s all done under the guise of looking after members’ interests.
    Fiddlesticks! It’s about union bosses trying to be relevant when their subscribers’ are deserting them in the 1000’s, because they’re NO longer relevant!
    These thugs’ days are coming to and end, as people are fed up with their bullying tactics.
    Going to the home of QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce just shows how disrespectful & disreputable they really are.
    Will be interesting to see if they do the same to Scurrah, once Bain have got the reins there.

  • Paul


    Why don’t the unions and their super funds create a company to run ground handling. They waste a lot of money on lawyers and such. Put the members money to good use.

  • Rod Pickin


    I have a fair bit of experience involving “Ground Handling Agreements”, their construction, formalising and finally implementation. Simply put, the company presents a list of their function requirements to the intending service provider who decide if they can achieve that which is required of them under the agreement. In turn the intending provider accepts or declines the opportunity to seek agreement by advising the company at what financial cost they will charge for that service. The company either accepts or declines the tended costing. Sure there are varying types of agreements concerning who supplies the needed ground service equipment or similar. The company may wish to incorporate the sale of their G.S.E. into the contract and similar features. From a contractors viewpoint, not a good idea. As with all these functions carried out the main reason for failure either inhouse or by contract is because of the lack of supervision. Unions detest what they call “Policemen in the workforce” They believe that all staff have the same work ethic and we all know that aint the case. In the case of the QF staffers attempting to successfully tender for a ground handling contract truly, good luck to you; there are some huge players out there with far more assets and support than you can aquire. My advise, take the payout, invest wisely and get on with life, it is surprising what opportunities await you.

  • Clinton


    To Paul above…..
    Wow! Talk about a recipe for disaster!
    With unions ‘owning ground handling’, nothing would get done, as they’d be out on strike continuously, because this is what they do.
    No aircraft would leave its’ parking bay……EVER!

  • Qantastic


    Greed ,,,,, how does Joyce sleep at night.
    Determined to destroy the lives of over 2500 workers ( more like over 10000 people)
    How much money do you want ,,, how many million is enough ?
    To those who think the TWU @Mike and Wayne , are being disrespectful and irrelevant ,,pfft to those comments
    you must be on the board .
    DISpirit of Australia

  • Craigy


    Well said Rod. As for Qantastic – clueless

  • Carles


    In response to QANTASTIC.
    So very true it’s just greed plain and simple, unfortunately CEOs couldn’t care less about their staff and their welfare, don’t give a damn who they step on, who’s lives they destroy as long as they’re making money, how sad.

  • Peter.


    Yes that’s exactly what it is and nothing less it’s all about making money, sadly these days CEOs care only about making money, they don’t care who they squash, who’s lives they destroy as long as they’re making money and A.J. is one of them, yes spot on, how many million is enough ??.

  • Charles.


    Qantastic, greed absolutely, it was once said to me that there are people out there with only one intention in this life and that is to make money, they don’t care who they step on, the hardships they impose on peoples lives, who’s lives they “destroy” as long as they’re making money and AJ is one of them, how many millions is enough ??.

  • Warwick


    To those above commentors’ having ‘a go’ at QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce’s salary, all I can say is thank goodness none of you are in the chair.
    Have any of you met, & spoken with Mr Joyce? No, I bet not.
    By your comments, it’s obvious you’ve not one clue about how a huge business like QANTAS operates.
    So, therefore I say, keep up the good work Alan, & the Board!
    QANTAS will come through this horrific time successfully, as it has done so previously during uncertainty.

  • James


    Warwick and Rod Pickin.

    Clever, informed and unemotional. Fully agree with both of you. Clearly you’ve both been involved in the industry and don’t just sit on the sidelines yelling utter none sense.

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