The TWU on Friday gathered outside Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce’s private home to protest against the airline’s proposal to outsource 2,500 ground handling jobs.
After union members addressed the press, they marched to Joyce’s apartment block to hand-deliver a letter asking him to immediately halt the potential job cuts.
The union’s campaign chief, Emily McMillan, said the dramatic action was necessary because “there’s no way else to communicate with him”.
Last month, Qantas announced thousands 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 to do the work.
Speaking at the protest, the TWU’s national assistant secretary, Nick McIntosh, said, “Two weeks [ago] Alan Joyce sent a letter to the family [of] 2,500 workers telling them that their jobs were going to be outsourced. Today, workers are handing a letter back asking him to reconsider.
“These jobs aren’t being made redundant – they’re being replaced. Qantas appallingly is using the cover of COVID to come up with a plan they’ve had in the works for 10 years. Workers who have been here for decades and built the carrier up.”
The letter to Joyce itself said the decision to outsource was a “devastating blow” and a “travesty” for Australian aviation.
“We were there when the airline hit rock bottom in 2014 with billions of dollars in losses, pushed to the point of asking the federal government for a bailout,” it said. “When this bailout didn’t come we took the hit: 18-month wages freezes which continue to affect our pay and retirement outcomes to this day.
“We are asking for plans to outsource us to be halted immediately.”
Qantas’ proposal would see the airline brand outsource its ground handling 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.
However, before a final decision is made, it is giving staff the chance to compile an in-house bid to rival those made by external companies.
The TWU, though, is taking Qantas to the Fair Work Commission and arguing that employees haven’t been given enough time to their alternative proposal.
In a pre-hearing letter to Justice Iain Ross, seen by Australian Aviation, the union said employees have been given “no real opportunity” to compile a bid that has “any prospect of success”.
Qantas has said in response the TWU is “misrepresenting the situation”, “misleading its members” and will “vigorously defend” the union’s claims.
When the airline first announced the outsourcing plans, the TWU’s national secretary Michael Kaine sensationally called on Alan Joyce to resign and demanded Prime Minister Scott Morrison personally intervene.
“This is not shrewd management, it is economic violence,” said Kaine. “If Alan Joyce’s only plan is to wield the axe on thousands of loyal staff, he should resign.
“Qantas has taken millions in JobKeeper wage subsidies, more than any other company, with the express intent of keeping people employed. But now Alan Joyce wants to destroy thousands more livelihoods. This is callous abuse of public money. The chief executive must resign.
“We are calling on the Prime Minister to intervene and call Qantas to account over its misuse of taxpayers’ money. There is no dividend for the public if a company like Qantas can sack thousands of workers after receiving such financial support.”