Qantas’ application to delay remedy hearings in its ongoing court case with the TWU over the outsourcing of 2,000 ground handlers has been denied.
In July, the Federal Court found that Qantas had partially violated the Fair Work Act in its decision to outsource the workers and dismantle its Qantas Ground Services unit.
After officially filing its appeal against the verdict earlier this month, the airline on Monday requested the court apply a stay on remedy hearings, which would delay any proceedings pertaining to the reinstatement or compensation of the unlawfully outsourced ground workers until after its appeal has been heard.
Justice Nye Perram in the Federal Court announced the ruling, which denied Qantas’ stay application on Tuesday morning, but approved the airline’s application for an expedited leave to appeal.
“I have concluded that the stay sought by Qantas should not be granted,” Justice Perram said. “At the forefront of my consideration is my impression that the risk of prejudice to the TWU outweighs the risk of prejudice faced by Qantas.”
The court confirmed Qantas’ appeal hearing will be set for February 2022. Remedy hearings will continue as planned.
The TWU, representing the 2,000 outsourced workers, opposed the stay, arguing that any significant delay in proceedings could prejudice workers by reducing the likelihood of reinstatement.
Further, the union argued that Qantas’ request to delay proceedings in order to reduce excessive court costs was unreasonable, given costs are a risk taken on by both parties in Fair Work cases.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine welcomed the court’s decision to deny the stay application and said Qantas could easily avoid court costs by dropping its costly appeal.
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“The truth is, Qantas has deep pockets when it comes to paying legal fees, which are simply forecasted as the cost of doing business. The airline deliberately operates on the verge of lawlessness, challenging those it mistreats to take it on in costly court battles it knows impact its opponents more severely,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the vast majority of workers cut loose by Qantas still have no income and just want their jobs back.”
A date for remedy hearings will be set when the parties meet again in court on 1 October.
These proceedings will likely take place in late December and will hear evidence over whether or not the outsourced workers should have their roles reinstated at the airline. The union has continued to push for the unlawfully outsources workers to be reinstated at the airline.
The court has 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.
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.
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