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TWU will push for 2,000 axed Qantas workers to return

written by Adam Thorn | July 30, 2021

The TWU has told Australian Aviation it will push for Qantas to rehire the 2,000 workers it made redundant following its historic court victory.

The union’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, denied there would be too much ill-feeling between the airline and ex-employees for them to come back.

“They’ll believe they can come back and see off this management team and be part of rebuilding the company to one that’s not only great in terms of shareholder value but great in terms of being a model employer,” he said.

It comes after Federal Court judge Justice Michael Lee on Friday ruled that while Qantas likely didn’t outsource roles purely to “hobble industrial influence”, it could have been a factor on a balance of probabilities.


That decision means outsourced employees could potentially regain their jobs or receive compensation because the Fair Work Act has been breached, though that has yet to be determined. Qantas has indicated it will appeal.

Kaine said the former employees had been slammed from pillar to post over the decision to outsource their roles.

“It was not just a reprehensible act, it was an illegal act,” he said. “There’s not in any sense triumphalism today.

“There is actually a sense of great regret, that the work that they’ve put into this company for so many years, has been undermined by a management team that has gone rampant.

“And this judgment is full of references to inappropriate action of Qantas management that has today been found to be illegal. And what we’ll be doing now, of course, is following through on the orders that were applied for in the court, and that is that these workers be reinstated.”

Qantas responded to the decision by arguing the TWU had a “persecution complex” and said it will “oppose any such orders” to reinstate workers or pay compensation.

“I think that is an unfortunate intervention by Qantas,” said Kaine. “It really does seem as if they are shocked that a union and a workforce stood up to them and exercised not only their legal rights appropriately, but go to the courts and asked the courts to apply an objective lens over the conduct of Qantas.

“And their conduct has been found, not only to be short of a moral standard, it has been found to be short of the legal standard. And what Qantas should be doing now rather than spitting out aggressive and spiteful press releases, is to sit down with the workforce that it targeted to get rid of.”

Qantas earlier argued it “fundamentally disagrees with this judgment” and would appeal.

Both Qantas and Jetstar removed ground handling operations this year at the Australian airports where the work was done in-house, which included Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, shifting them to external businesses including Swissport and dnata.

The TWU hired Waterfront dispute lawyer Josh Bornstein to argue the airline’s actions contravened the Fair Work Act because employees at the new companies are now no longer entitled to terms secured through enterprise agreements. Qantas had consistently denied it has done anything unlawful.

Bornstein called the decision a legal first.

“The Federal Court has found for the first time that a major employer has sacked over 2000 workers because it was seeking to deprive them of the ability to collectively bargain with the company for a new enterprise agreement,” he said.

“It is also the first successful challenge to a major corporate outsourcing exercise in 20 years. We put Qantas’ outsourcing on trial and Qantas lost. Large companies have used outsourcing for decades to prevent employees from being able to collectively bargain with them.

”As a result, employees have lost the ability to obtain proper wage rises. Once Qantas outsourced its workers and sourced them indirectly from labour hire agencies, it did not have to bargain with ground staff again.”

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Comments (5)

  • Bevan


    The TWU can’t ‘push’ for anything.
    There’s an Appeal by QANTAS to be heard, & that’ll take months’.

    This union shouldn’t get all ‘cock smart’, about this result, as it could be overturned on Appeal.

  • Rod Pickin


    It is a fact that the courts of whatever brand dispense “The Law”, just that and so all that any competent counsel for the aggrieved has to do is identify any specific statement/action undertaken by the defendant which can/could be interpreted as questionable under the law, seek the justices approval and we have a result. That is precisely what we have in the current case against Qantas which tragically totally ignores the fact that under the law management, of any company, is compelled to consistently monitor its own performance in order to remain solvent and profitable; not to so do invites legal action under insolvency laws. The decision by Qantas to outsource it’s ground handling operations would not have been taken lightly; it is however a decision that is in keeping with the actions of the majority of airlines in the world today and keeps valuable staffers more gainfully and happily employed. With respect, in this case, I feel that the TW.U. management have been playing the man and not the ball, not a good example of professional behavior.

    • Vannus


      You really didn’t expect the TWU to ‘play clean’ did you, Rod?

      It’s still smarting from the fleet grounding of 2011, caused by its’ union members’ striking daily, August to October, inclusive, that year.

      What QANTAS staff, in various departments’, mostly Airport, & Reservations, were put through by angry customers’ was totally, & utterly beyond the pale, thanks to the striking unionists’.

      This court case was just a ‘revenge’ tactic by TWU, & the decision is wrong in so many ways.
      Hopefully the Company will win at Appeal.

    • Andrew


      The only employees “gainfully and happily” still employed are those in management or customer facing areas. (They don’t want any public facing staff in Dnata or Swissport uniforms)
      Are you suggesting that ground crews are not valuable staffers?

      I for one would not like to work as a casual for a ground handling company where there’s a flat rate no matter the day/time.
      I’d get a better wage as a 1st year apprentice.

  • Mitchell


    There are no directions’ from this court case compelling QANTAS to rehire previous ground staff.

    Typical bull-at-a-gate stupid TWU trying to out manoeuvre the Company.
    They do their subscribing members’ no favours’.
    In fact, it’d probably hurt their cause with the airline.

    But the union bosses’ don’t care, as they still get their fat pay cheques’, no matter how many members’.

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