The TWU has said it believes the Federal Court could order Qantas to re-hire 2,000 ground handers already made redundant if it wins a landmark challenge in April.
It comes after the airline revealed in January it was to forge ahead with outsourcing the roles before the outcome of the case because the union didn’t obtain an ‘interlocutory injunction’.
Speaking to the Australian Aviation Podcast, which you can listen to above, national secretary Michael Kaine said the reason Qantas was able to act first was because laws were “stacked against workers”.
“If workers seek such an injunction, they can be penalised if that injunction is unsuccessful and Qantas knows that,” said Kaine. “We wrote to Qantas, and we said to Qantas, twice, on two occasions, we’re running this case, we have a disagreement about whether or not you should or can legally take this action, you should put this action on hold until the court case is heard. And they rejected that letter.
“Now, a reasonable rational approach would have been for them to say well, ‘Rather than have the Federal Court unpick this and require us to re-engage all of these workers, if we lose the case, let’s in effect, put a hold on the process and let the legal action take its course’.
“They refuse to do that. They know the laws are stacked against us. But despite all of that, we will continue and the Federal Court has the power to reinstate all of these workers if we are successful in our assertion that Qantas has broken the law here.”
Kaine also said there was “no rational justification” for Qantas to outsource the roles in the first place.
“It was about cost, it was about boosting the bottom line,” he said. “And it was about making sure that the bottom line was in a position that was support the payment of executive bonuses. And that’s not a place where we need Australia to be or aviation to be.”
The disputed Qantas plans have seen 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.
The TWU though responded by securing the services of Waterfront dispute lawyer Josh Bornstein, who is set to argue Qantas’ proposals contravene the Fair Work Act. If successful, a potential ruling could have major ramifications for other businesses.
In response, Qantas has accused the TWU of not telling the truth. In particular, it has rejected accusations that it has transferred ground handling roles to “labour hire firms” and denied it has abused JobKeeper subsidies. It’s also hit back at the central claim that it removed in-house roles to avoid collective bargaining agreements.