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.