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Qantas yet to be told details of new wage subsidy

written by Adam Thorn | March 15, 2021
BOEING 787 9 QANTAS PER NOV17 RF IMG_3224 resized
A Qantas Boeing 787-9 shot in November 2017 (Rob Finlayson)

Qantas has told employees it’s still unsure of who will be eligible for the government’s international aviation wage subsidy, and how much money they will receive.

A memo sent to staff last week, seen by Australian Aviation, said it understands the deal at a “high-level” but is still waiting for details from the government.

Last week, the Prime Minister revealed a new package of measures for the aviation industry that will include wage payments for 8,600 international aviation employees. However, it’s still not known if the financial help will be as generous as JobKeeper, which is expiring when the new initiative comes into effect on 1 April.

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The Q&A-style memo from Qantas, sent on Thursday, 11 March, confirms 7,500 Qantas employees will receive a “weekly payment” that will last until international borders open at the end of October.

The question of who is eligible has the answer: “We are currently waiting for this detail from the government. At a high-level we understand the capability fund is designed to assist Qantas Group employees who primarily support our international flying and are impacted by stand down and international border closures.

“This is likely to include eligible flight and cabin crew, engineers, airport, lounges and support employees whose role is primarily related to the international operation or fleet types. We’ll be developing a detailed eligibility Q&A in the coming weeks and will update this document with those answers once we have them.”

It also revealed the business is still unsure if those on forms of unpaid leave will be covered.

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TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the message makes clear how dangerous it is to end JobKeeper payments.

“We had a gimmicky publicity stunt this week about cheap flights and support for international aviation workers but this memo proves this support still hasn’t been worked out with zero details,” said Kaine. “Scott Morrison posed in a pilot’s hat and sat in a cockpit but he won’t have to live the lives of aviation workers as they agonise over their futures.

“We are two weeks out from JobKeeper ending and the federal government is piling stress and anxiety on aviation workers. This government has utterly failed these workers and anger among them is palpable. The move this week highlights yet again how this government has no strategy for aviation. It is limping along without a plan and running with whatever policy agenda Qantas has.”

The package of measures also includes 800,000 half-price airfares to 13 tourism destinations including the Gold Coast, Whitsundays and Merimbula; cheap loans to small business coming off JobKeeper; and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative.

Despite opposition from unions, the deal was backed by key industry groups representing airports, national airlines and regional aviation.

Australian Airports Association (AAA) chief executive James Goodwin said, “Anything that can fill seats and put more aircraft in the sky is a good thing and will have flow-on effects for the airport sector.

“It’s been just over a year since COVID-19 hit and during this time, all airports have been doing it extremely tough. They’ve been in major need of support and are grateful the federal government has listened to their calls with this new package.”

However, Goodwin also said the government should focus on getting international borders to open “as quickly as possible”.

“It’s crucial for the government to start working with industry on a plan to reopen the border so that we can be ready to go,” he added.

Meanwhile, Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ) called the package a “vital lifeline” and the Regional Aviation Association of Australia (RAAA) said it “welcomes the announcement” of further support.

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