australian aviation logo

TWU lodges proposal to save 2,000 ground handling jobs

written by Adam Thorn | November 24, 2020

The TWU has submitted its plan to Qantas to retain up to 2,000 ground-handling jobs earmarked for outsourcing.

National secretary Michael Kaine said the bid, compiled with consulting firm EY, is “competitive” and has identified “numerous efficiencies and savings”.

In August, Qantas announced the business was considering axing its remaining ground-handling operations, subject to hearing bids from both private contractors as well as existing 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 employees the chance to compile an in-house bid to rival those made by external organisations.

“We urge Qantas to award the work to their loyal, dedicated workers who they have invested time and money in training up to the high standards that Qantas passengers expect,” said Kaine. “Qantas workers should be allowed to do Qantas work.

“There is a real risk for Qantas investors and passengers if this work is auctioned off to outside contractors. There is no doubt that standards in service, safety and security will slip.

Kaine went on to criticise the work of rival bidder Swissport, arguing, “Considering the amount of public money which has been pumped into Qantas since the pandemic hit, the community has a right to expect better standards.”


The move comes despite the TWU earlier taking Qantas to a Fair Work Commission tribunal where it argued employees weren’t 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,” Kaine said at the time.

“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 argued 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”.

The TWU also recruited 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 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 (7)

  • Nate


    My immediate thought is ‘be careful what you wish for’, in regards to QANTAS employees’, taking notice of what the TWU is up to.
    I wouldn’t trust a union as far as I could throw them, as they’ve not got a good track record, & that goes back decades’.
    They’ll want something in return.

  • Rod Pickin


    Over the years QF has won and earned many accolades for its terrific achievements; unfortunately I.R. and E.R. don’t rate amongst those achievements and the current stoush re ground handling is a continuing irritational rash on employee relations. In reality, outsourcing of ground handling operations can and probably will happen; it is the way it is being handled that is in question. These days, it is all about “Costs” and the reduction of or elimination of them, – just take a moment and remind yourself of where you are in this arena today. Gone are the days with glamorous airline company shopfronts, aeroplane models suspended from the ceilings and much verbiage enticing punters to some idealistic tropical island paradise (some once owned by the company too) – replaced today by Travel agents on commissions and incentives. Today you arrive at the airport and the familiar check in staffer (bag snatcher) is almost extinct replaced by an innate machine that spits out a boarding pass and then you go fight with another machine that may or may not accept your baggage dependant upon how it is presented to them. From there you follow the signs and often walk, walk, walk and keep walking to your departure gate which has an automated boarding system staffed by a bored looking person who’s sole purpose is to insert your boarding pass into the machine for coalation purposes and then return it to you in order for you to actually board your flight. (Won’t be long and that staffer will be gone too). For years in the states, there was a joke about “rentahostie” those little charmers being supplied by a company claimed to fill the needs of the likes of PanAm. Believe me it can happen here too; a labour hire organisation supplying a ” Certificate 3″ qualified staffer for designated flights/routes the only company staffer would be say the Cabin Manager, has to be a manager because that rank attracts a much higher salary than say a Purser and his/her purpose would be to maintain the company image/standards forgetting of course that in the main the incumbents backside is mostly wider than the isle in which they live for the flight duration. It doesn’t end there, once you turn left, if you are allowed, that is the domain of the “Tech. Crew”. In reality, those folk need not be “company folk”, they could be from the same labour hire mob that supply the cabin crew numbers however the Tech Crew arena is so important to the companies image/survival that the likelihood of outsourcing there is a non event. Look at every other facet of the airport operation, catering, cabin cleaning, the dreaded honey cart, engineering, apart from a company trained qualified supervisor, do you really need all those staff when you can hire them as needed? I have to state here that I am not in total agreement with all of the above but, that is the way of the world aviation operations at the moment.

  • Craigy


    I really see how an internal proposal could outbid an external one without huge concessions in working practices and employment conditions. By remaining within Qantas, the business still has the on costs associated with employees such as super, sick leave and long service leave. Long service leave is a liability on the balance sheet.

  • Joseph Lopez


    Qantas must return our normal jobs due to family responsibilities and commitments. Its been a long period that we have had stress for our financial situations.I reiterate that please give back our jobs.Thank You.

  • Rocket


    It’s hard not to see this as the day the chickens came home to roost.
    Frankly, having had some involvement in airlines, this is a group of people, supposedly represented by a militant union (I’m not against unions per se, but I’ve seen some obscene behaviour from this one and others), which has guided the lilly for decades, has ridden the golden chariot and has ‘practically’ and laughably virtually wanted staff paid for going to the toilet (not really, but some of the claims over the years have been laughable).
    It has milked and milked this with no regard to the long-term viability of jobs but simply in pursuit of union power.
    Well, I hope they have all their explanations in readiness for the membership when the axe falls, because if I was one of the employees, I know what direction I’d be looking in and it wouldn’t be the company.
    Why wouldn’t Qantas want to rid itself of a volatile and industrially difficult group that has consumed hundreds of thousands of unnecessary management time for decades and has always had its hand out for more and more.
    Qantas uses ground handlers everywhere around the world, except Los Angeles, Honolulu and San Francisco where it is half owner in a ground handling business. Most major airlines contract this sort of stuff out.
    Just pay a fee for the service, like they do for catering, fuel, quarantine services, etc. and let someone else deal with the industrial nonsense.

  • Rocket


    @ Rod Pickin

    Very entertaining. However, the “bored looking person” at the gate who takes your boarding pass is actually a Cabin Crew Member employed by the company. At international it is a ground staff member but on domestic flights, it is the cabin crew. Ground Staff are behind the counter and handle other functions such as coordinating the departure, handling seat changes, etc.

  • Vannus


    To Craigy, above…..

    LSL is in Australian law. So are AL & SL.
    As such, what you said is a useless practical.
    QANTAS, like every other Oz company, deals with it.
    The fact it’s outsourcing various sections’ of said Company is just the way private business operates. Therefore, it’s no different to any other company.
    Why people get all uptight about what an airline does is beyond me. Maybe their skewed thinking involves air fare rises? Nobody raises a storm when Myer, DJ’s, or Target sack staff.
    Get used to it.
    It’s now a reality in this possibly(?) post pandemic world.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.