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.”