Qantas has filed an application for leave to appeal in its ongoing court battle with the TWU over the dismissal of more than 2,000 ground handlers whose roles were outsourced.
The union said the airline’s move was simply a delaying tactic and it would fight on.
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 in part 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 airline has highlighted that it was “actively recruiting” into its ground handling business and “investing in new equipment” before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, signalling it had no intention to outsource these workers prior.
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 TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.
“Rather than funding an expensive appeal with the $2 billion taxpayer cash it has received, Qantas should get on with the urgent task of reinstating and compensating the loyal workers it illegally pushed out the door.”
Kaine revealed that more than 1,650 people have signed a letter calling on the Qantas board to drop its plans to appeal, and to move to reinstate the workers who wish to return to the airline.
“If the board truly has the airline’s best interests at heart, it should reinstate the highly skilled workers who’ve built the trusted brand,” he said.
The two parties are due back in court on Wednesday.
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.
Since the win, the union has continued to push for Qantas to reinstate the workers that were outsourced, however the airline has argued reinstatement is nearly impossible, as it has already dismantled its Qantas Ground Services unit.
In an earlier court appearance, the judge presiding over the case, Justice Michael Lee, said he sees it as largely “unworkable” to expect those roles could be reinstated, and hinted the appeals process could drag on for years.
Despite this, Bornstein said similar cases had resulted in workers being reinstated to the company.
“Under the legislation that we’re dealing with the court has very broad powers to remedy breaches, so we will be asking the court to use those broad powers to encourage Qantas to maximise reinstatement for the employees,” Bornstein explained.
“We know that Qantas is opposed to reinstatement, which might make it less straightforward than it otherwise would be if the airline was co-operating with the union over reinstatement,” he added, however remained confident that the union could successfully persuade the court to make Qantas bring the affected workers back on.
The Waterfront lawyer said he agreed that Qantas did have the power to drag out the process by remaining uncompromising on reinstatement, however given the number of people involved, the court could push to “fast track” the case, and avoid years-long delays.
“If Qantas was co-operative, this whole thing could be over quite quickly, however if they want to drag it out, the court might consider the amount of people involved,” he said.