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Outsourced Qantas staff to learn if they’ll return by year’s end

written by Hannah Dowling | September 8, 2021

TWU Michael Kaine 1
The TWU’s national secretary, Michael Kaine

The 2,000 Qantas ground handlers whose roles were outsourced will find out if they’ll make an extraordinary return to the airline by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, the Federal Court approved a request by the TWU to see a decision before the end of 2021, with Justice Michael Lee arguing that he wouldn’t allow such a large amount of people to have their lives “put on hold”.

“If that means that we have to work during the holidays, then maybe we’ll have to work during the holidays,” he said.

In July, the Federal Court ruled Qantas had violated the Fair Work Act in making the redundancies and largely found in favour of the TWU, which claimed the decision to outsource employees was done partly to prevent them from being able to negotiate a new enterprise agreement and take industrial action. Qantas has consistently denied it has done anything unlawful.

The union has been pushing the Federal Court to set the hearing, which will hear evidence over whether or not the outsourced workers should have their roles reinstated at the airline, to occur before the end of the year. Qantas requested the court to delay the hearing until next year.


A final date for the hearing will be set on 1 October, however it is likely to take place in the latter half of December.

The court has also requested that the TWU present just three test cases, or case studies, highlighting the personal effect of Qantas’ outsourcing decision.

This is despite the TWU offering to provide up to 15 case studies, and Qantas requesting over 20 test cases to be presented as evidence at the remedy hearing for reinstatement.

In addition to the test cases, the TWU will prepare and conduct a survey on the preferences of the ground workers involved in the case, on what outcome they would want to see in terms of reinstatement and compensation.

The TWU welcomed the Federal Court’s decision to proceed with remedy hearings for the reinstatement and compensation in a timely manner.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the court’s decision to proceed will bring relief to workers still struggling mentally and financially.

“Qantas has predictably but shamefully made every attempt to drag out the suffering of workers and delay the resolution of this case. Today, workers took another step towards justice,” he said.

“The strain that this turmoil has put on workers and their families has been immeasurable. Marriages have broken down and workers have had to seek medical help, describing to the union the ‘crippling anxiety’ and ‘physical illness and distress’ caused by their illegal sacking.”

According to the TWU, the courts have never dealt with a matter of reinstatement to the scale of 2,000 workers before, making the case “monumental”.

It comes just one day after Qantas filed its long-awaited application for leave to appeal, which the company vowed to do since the court made its ruling in July.

The TWU said Qantas’ appeal is merely a tactic to “delay remedy hearings for reinstatement and compensation of the unlawfully sacked workers”. The union has said it will fight the appeal.

“Workers have been to hell and back because of Qantas’s cruelty, which it is adamant to drag out as long as possible,” said Kaine.

In an earlier interview with Australian Aviation, TWU lawyer Josh Bornstein said the union’s team was anticipating Qantas to appeal the decision, should the court rule in their favour.

“We were expecting them to pursue their appeal rights if we did win, so it hasn’t shocked us,” he said.

Both parties will return to court on 1 October.

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Comments (6)

  • Rocket


    I really wish this union would do what they need to do but shut up in the meantime.

    Not against unions, indeed, they should have some of the powers they used to have but this particular one, as many in the industry have seen firsthand, were never too queasy about the managers they drove to the wall and burned out, who’s careers were destroyed because of their industrially difficult tactics and the environment they helped create – screw the company at all costs while featherbedding as much as possible. Yeh, they’ll say they led their members to make sacrifices for the greater good, but in reality they just conceded a little bit of ground to save jobs while moving an inch or two along the mile they needed to come to work reasonably.

    Then when the chickens come home to roost, it’s all a flap and accusing Qantas of being ‘cruel’.

    Well, Qantas aren’t the only ones – I doubt there’s too many managers in airlines that when plotting their career path would avoid the Ramp and Baggage areas like the plague because it has been a quagmire from where your career is destroyed by industrial mayhem impossible to control or if you do well at it, you get buried there for the rest of your career.

    What Alan Joyce has done is say it’s not sustainable to keep the work in house which is justifiable on every single economic ground, it’s just side benefit that it removes a very difficult group – yes, there are some wonderful people who have lost their jobs as a result, but to be fair, a lot of those people accepted the Union and their actions over many years that led to this situation.

    There were foreign carriers for years, even when the airlines did ground handling, who would split their handling between two different airlines in different cities – why???? mainly because the Ramp might go out and they could at least still operate to the other airport and connect their passengers on domestic flights.

    • Vannus


      Couldn’t agree more, Rocket!

      Knew of QANTAS folk who worked at the Airports, & in Reservations’, who were both physically & verbally abused by passengers’ because of the almost daily strikes’ by TWU members’, August to October 2011, inclusive.

      The QANTAS Travel Centres’ in each capital city had to have Police at their doorways, as staff were being abused constantly.

      It was something the CEO Mr Alan Joyce, & the Board could NOT allow to continue, so the Fleet was grounded.

      By doing that, it pulled the rug from under the Union, & TEN years’ later, they’re STILL seeking ‘revenge’ on QANTAS, every which way they can. They’re just a pathetic, thuggish mob.

      It’ll be very interesting the outcome of this Appeal case.

      Hope the staff who took redundancy monies’, still have it all at the ready, to hand back to QANTAS, if TWU ‘wins’(?), & they want their former work.

  • Interesting situation on this court case as I don’t see how Qantas can re-instate these people as Qantas now has got rid of all of its old ground handling equipment and has binding contracts with the outsourced companies to provide these services. Surely the Qantas staff would be better off applying for jobs with the new companies providing these services to Qantas.

    I suppose they could apply for jobs as flight attendants or ground terminal hostesses for doing check ins, At least these jobs are inside out of the elements, rather on the tarmac.

    • Jason


      Applying to the company that took over the contract would be a big pay drop, no set hours and probably split shifts.
      There is a reason employment with the the companies that ground services was outsourced to is measured in months.

  • Jaxon


    The company lost billions since the pandemic and accumulated billions more in debts. How will they pay for wages if they reinstate these roles. If they had kept everything as is and not outsourced, the company would have been bankrupted by now and everyone would have lost their jobs not just TWU memebers.

    • Warwick


      Yes, Jaxon, that is correct, as the thugs at TWU care about nobody except themselves.
      Their constant mantra by TWU bosses’, ‘for the workers’ is just a sham.
      It’s only about their own hefty pay packets’.

      They want QANTAS to go ‘bankrupt’, as they’d see it as ‘payback’ to the Company for the fleet grounding in 2011.
      To be ‘smarting’ over that still, shows the low IQ of them.

      The union influence is getting less & less as time moves on, thank goodness, as folk are starting to realise what they’re REALLY like.

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