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Qantas files High Court appeal over illegal outsourcing ruling

written by Hannah Dowling | June 2, 2022

Qantas has again filed an appeal against a ruling that said its decision to outsource 2,000 ground staff was an illegal breach of the Fair Work Act, after the Federal Court upheld the ruling last month.

The airline has filed an application for leave to appeal with the High Court of Australia, just weeks after losing its first appeal attempt.

According to the TWU, which has been battling Qantas in court over the matter since 2020, the application was made to coincide with the first day of “preliminary” roundtable discussions about compensation for the affected workers.

In early 2021, Qantas moved to outsource ground handling operations at the 10 Australian airports where it was still running them in-house, including Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. This decision resulted in the 2,000 roles being made redundant.

The TWU brought Qantas to court over the decision, and in August 2021, the Federal Court ruled that Qantas had violated section 341B of the Fair Work Act, which protects employees’ rights to bargain and take protected industrial action.

The union had previously been pushing to get all 2,000 workers reinstated at Qantas, however, the Court ruled last month that reinstatement would not be appropriate. The TWU said it will now push for “a “substantial compensation package” for the workers who lost their jobs.

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The union slammed the latest appeal attempt and said the “eleventh-hour application” was merely a means to “drag out workers’ suffering”.

“The TWU has declared the exorbitant drawn-out legal battle another callous tactic by the airline to target workers prepared to stand up against the corporate bully and fight collectively for fair pay and conditions at the airline,” the union said.

Remedy hearings to discuss appropriate compensation due to the impacted workers and penalties taken against Qantas are scheduled to begin on 18 July.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “Workers have been vindicated by the Federal Court on two occasions, but as if the emotional toll of the outsourcing and legal process hasn’t been enough, Qantas now wants to prolong their suffering through more unnecessary and expensive legal proceedings.”

“Enough is enough,” Kaine continued.

“Qantas should drop its appeal, accept its wrongdoing, and begin the work of earning back Australia’s trust by fairly compensating workers for the jobs they unlawfully stole from them.”

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

The union successfully 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 has consistently denied it did anything unlawful.

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