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78% of outsourced Qantas workers want their old jobs back: TWU

written by Hannah Dowling | November 17, 2021


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

The TWU has revealed that 78 per cent of outsourced Qantas ground workers wish to return to their jobs at the airline, in a survey now submitted to the Federal Court as evidence ahead of a remedy hearing next month.

It comes after the TWU in July won its landmark case against Qantas, when the Federal Court ruled the airline’s decision to outsource 2,000 ground services workers was made in partial violation of the Fair Work Act.

From 13 December, the Federal Court will begin hearing evidence before deciding whether or not to order the reinstatement of the 2,000 ground workers, including baggage handlers and cleaners, whose roles were outsourced earlier in the year.

As part of the hearing, the TWU – representing the outsourced workers – has been requested to present at least three case studies highlighting the personal effect of Qantas’ outsourcing decision, as well as a survey detailing the preferred outcomes of the ground workers involved.

The TWU has today released the results of the independent survey, which accounted for more than 1,500 workers, representing approximately 82 per cent of the total number of affected Qantas employees.

Of these workers, 78 per cent stated that they would prefer to be reinstated to their previous roles at Qantas.


“Many workers gave decades of hard work, dedication and loyalty to Qantas. Despite everything, they want to put this awful period behind them and get back to doing their jobs safely and professionally,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

“We are appealing to the Qantas board to reverse this enormous misstep. Dragging families through the trauma of an appeal is wrong. Refusing to return skilled workers to Qantas is irresponsible for the business and the travelling public. It’s time for the board to make a good decision.

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 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.

Qantas has filed an appeal against the initial July ruling, which is expected to be heard in February 2022. The airline is also expected to appeal, should the reinstatement ruling fall in favour of the TWU.

In light of the survey results, the TWU has also penned an open letter to the Qantas board, requesting that the airline drop its appeal of the court ruling, and immediately move to reinstate those ground workers.

“This is your chance as a board member to stand up for those who helped build Qantas and ensure confidence among the Australian community, which has done so much since the start of the pandemic to support Qantas,” the letter, signed by over 3,000 former Qantas staff members and supporters, said.

Since the initial ruling in July, the TWU has continued to push for the airline to reinstate all willing workers back to their roles.

Meanwhile, Qantas has continued to argue that it would likely be impractical and difficult to reinstate all outsourced workers, given that it has now been at least eight months since those workers were let go from Qantas, and also given that the branch they were employed under, Qantas Ground Services, no longer exists.

Both parties will return to court on 13 December to begin remedy hearings, with Justice Michael Lee expected to reach a decision before the end of the year.

“We’re dealing with a very large number of people who need to have some certainty about their lives,” Justice Michael Lee said.

“And I’ve got to do everything I can, it seems to me, to give them certainty as quickly as possible.”

Comments (8)

  • Warwick


    So according to the union, does this mean that 78% of the workers’ still have ALL their redundancy money paid to them, & contractually signed for, sitting in their bank accounts’, ready to hand back to QANTAS?

    This would probably be a ‘condition’ of being re-employed.

    This also pre-proposes the TWU wins the court case, & that is NOT assured.

  • Considering that the workers were unlawfully made redundant, it would be hash pill to swallow by making them repay there forced redundancy payment.
    Qantas should consider those payments as compensation for the pain and suffering those worker endured because of Qantas considering itself above the law.

    • Vannus


      Brendan, you obviously have not been in the situation of being made redundant from your job, so you are not cognisant with Redundancy Contracts’.

      They’re a very concisely worded document which those persons’ taking the redundancy package MUST sign.

      Everything is ‘spelled out’ for the person, & if they read it properly, they’d be well aware of its’ conditions’, which are numerous.

      We now wait upon the Court’s decision.

    • Ashley


      There was nothing ‘unlawful’ about redundancy of these workers’.

      The funds’ paid to them would have to be returned as a condition of re-employment, as the legal document they signed would’ve had strict terms’ attached to it.
      Do you really think that a Company that paid 10’s of 1000’s or more $ to those staff would really re-employ them, WITHOUT wanting that money back?

      You live in la-la land.

      By your erroneous comment, you no nothing about being made redundant, so aren’t you the lucky one.

  • Peter Hodgkinson


    Could not agree more with Brendan Smedley’s comment, but I would add that what is worse is that Joyce outsourced the jobs of highly trained and dedicated Australian employees to unscrupulous offshore operators (such as Swissport!!). If the court threw out the TWU case, that would amount to a travesty of justice. Fortunately, I do not agree with Warwick’s

    • Vannus


      If they were ‘dedicated’ to QANTAS, they wouldn’t have gone on strike, daily, for THREE continuous months’.

      The only reason they were ‘highly trained’ is QANTAS paid for this training, & they threw all that back in their employer’s face, by striking.

      No Company can lose millions’ $ weekly, & keep having that happen continuously.

      So, the fleet was grounded, which the dumb unions’ never saw coming!

      And further down the track, those unionists’ department was closed.
      There’s a moral for the unions’ here, but they won’t get it.

  • Nicholas


    Of course they want their jobs back, overpaid and cushy conditions which is why QF outsourced them…
    Perhaps they should have thought through blindly following their unions, and instead given their employer, the person who pays them, more loyalty..

    • Vannus


      Yea, Nicholas, for QANTAS, the ‘final straw’ with these unionists’, was the constant daily striking AUG-OCT 2011 incl, which saw 1000’s of pax inconvenienced, staff being physically & obscenely abused by those pax, at the airport, in travel centres’, which Police had to guard, & call centres’, & the airline lost millions’ $ in those three months’.

      The Company couldn’t allow this to continue, so the CEO Mr Alan Joyce, & the Board took the momentous step to ground the fleet.
      This, the Unions’ never thought would happen. Wrong!

      So the ground handlers’ signed their OWN ‘dismissal’ by blindly following union directions’, & as you rightly say, ‘not given their employer QANTAS, who paid them, loyalty’.

      Hence the Company closed down its’ GHS department, & those employees’ have only themselves to blame for that.

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