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Redundant Qantas workers won’t get their jobs back

written by Adam Thorn | December 17, 2021

The Federal Court has ruled that 2,000 Qantas ground handlers made redundant earlier this year won’t be offered the chance to return to the airline.

Justice Michael Lee said they would, however, receive compensation, with its extent to be decided in hearings held next year.

It comes after the Federal Court ruled in July that the decision to outsource the roles violated the Fair Work Act. Qantas has consistently denied any wrongdoing and an appeal is set to be heard in February.

Justice Lee said on Friday afternoon that while he accepts Qantas should not be able to “get away” with wrongful conduct, compensation was a more appropriate remedy for employees.


TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine responded by arguing the decision not to allow workers to return brought a “sad end to a year of unimaginable anguish” for redundant employees.

“The TWU is undeterred in its belief that these workers deserve their jobs back,” said Kaine. “We will appeal and continue the fight for justice alongside the ongoing matters of compensation and penalties on Qantas.

“Qantas treats the law like a voluntary code because it believes it can get away with it, in no small part due to the exorbitant no-strings corporate welfare provided by the Morrison government. Scott Morrison trumpets the importance of jobs but refuses to attach job security conditions to federal money and refuses to fix laws to stop companies like Qantas getting away with the illegal outsourcing of thousands.

“Although the court admonished Qantas and intends to ensure compensation and penalties will remedy their unlawful behaviour, the finding against reinstatement fails to bring management into line by accepting that the mess made by Qantas is too difficult to unscramble. The TWU will fight this decision.”

Qantas said in response it “welcomed the judgment and the clarity it gives former employees”.

“We’ve always said that the decision to outsource our ground handling function was based on lawful commercial reasons in response to the unprecedented impact of the COVID crisis, which has so far led to more than $20 billion in lost revenue,” said the airline.

“This underscores why it was so important that we unlocked the critical savings from outsourcing the remainder of our ground handling.”

Qantas first announced it was considering axing its remaining ground-handling operations in August 2020, subject to hearing bids from both private contractors as well as existing staff, before confirming the decision later that year.

The move saw the business remove operations at the 10 Australian airports where the work was done in-house, which included Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville.

The job losses came in addition to the 6,000 jobs initially made redundant, which represented nearly 20 per cent of its pre-pandemic workforce.

The TWU then took the matter to the Federal Court, which ruled in July 2021 that Qantas partially violated the Fair Work Act in outsourcing the roles.

The union argued that the decision to outsource employees was done to prevent them from being able to negotiate a new enterprise agreement and take industrial action. Qantas consistently denied it did anything unlawful.

The TWU though repeatedly argued its members wanted their old jobs back, with Kaine telling Australian Aviation there would not be too much ill-feeling between the airline and ex-employees.

More to follow…

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Comments (5)

  • Rod Pickin


    We are all aware of, “Cause and effect”, “Action and re-action” and this case in question is a prime example of how the Justice at the original hearing was able to be convinced, wrongly in my view, by council that QF had erred in its actions. It is published that QF’s actions were to prevent the effected staff from being able to negotiate a new EBA and take industrial action. My experiences would suggest that those claimed actions are totally inaccurate. Action to outsource any job function, as unpalatable as it may sound, can and will only be made on measurable, provable grounds; these can include and are not limited to, things like too much downtime, direct and indirect cost constraints, loss of customers due performance or pricing issues and stiff competition from competitors and not as is claimed in the original judgement. It is my experience that affected staffers are very well compensated, receive a large amount of monies at an age when they would otherwise not enjoy it and are able to move on and up, maybe in a similar of diverse vocation. Clearly then, not being able to negotiate a new EBA and take industrial action at that time is a result of the change in employment status and not the cause of the problem, action/reaction. Reading the TWU’s responses to this latest judicial announcement frankly concerns me; they appear to have a continuing vendetta against QF and it could be that they wish to see it’s demise; I think they are on the wrong bus here.

  • Vannus


    So the TWU wants ‘compensation’ for these former employees’?

    They all put out their hands, & signed for, extremely generous Redundancy $ payments’ from the Airline.

    They’ve already been ‘compensated’, so how much more money does the TWU want to screw out of QANTAS?

  • AgentGerko


    Another win for QF. The employees just get a bit of cash and QF will pass the cost of that along to customers, and QF gets the longterm benefit of cheaper workers employed by a company related to the Chinese government.

  • Ashley


    Sure their ‘unimaginable anguish’ was reduced by very generous Redundancy $ payments’ QANTAS paid them.

    Not talking a few hundred $ here, but 10’s of 1000’s at a minimum, for EACH employee.

    The TWU will drag this out to the nth degree, to make themselves ‘look’ as if they’re helping members’.

    Their absolute hatred of the Company has been evident since the fleet grounding in Oct2011.

    Their chance of winning on appeal, is lessened by the fact they probably ‘doctored’ numbers’ wanting to return to work.

    What a dumba$$ thing to do during legal proceedings’.
    But then unionists’ have never been known for their intelligence.

    • Joe


      “Very generous” you reckon? “10’s of 1000’s” you say. LOL. you are clearly talking out of your a$$

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