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Qantas wins right to take outsourcing appeal to High Court

written by Adam Thorn | November 18, 2022

Qantas has won the right to a final appeal against the Federal Court’s ruling that it was wrong to outsource 1,600 ground handlers.

In early 2021, the Flying Kangaroo 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 nearly 2,000 roles overall being made redundant.

The TWU brought the airline to court over the decision, and in August 2021, the Federal Court ruled that Qantas had violated parts of the Fair Work Act, and then rejected an initial appeal.

Qantas has consistently denied it did anything unlawful, and will now be able to make its case at the High Court next year.


TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “While it is deeply disappointing for workers, it’s clear the High Court believes it’s in the public interest to hear such an extraordinary case which has sent shockwaves across the economy and plunged Qantas into chaos.

“Despite the ongoing crisis at the airline, overpaid executives stand by their illegal actions so vehemently they are dragging out a costly legal battle rather than reinstate or compensate the experienced workers who built the spirit of Australia.”

Qantas said on Friday it had always expressed its “deep regret” that roles were lost as a result of the pandemic.

“There was very little certainty about the pandemic and our recovery when we made this decision, and it remained that way for more than a year afterwards.

“We ultimately lost more than $25 billion in revenue, so it was inevitable that we had to take significant action.

“The Federal Court agreed with our commercial reasons, but could not rule out that avoiding future industrial action was also a factor in the outsourcing. We have always rejected this, which is why are taking our appeal to the High Court.”

Upon its first victory in court, the TWU initially pushed for the employees to be allowed to come back to their old jobs, but a judge said a return would be impossible given the airline had already dismantled its Qantas Ground Services team and offloaded its equipment.

The appeal news comes after Qantas’ COVID-19 changes helped result in a remarkable turnaround that means it’s now targeting an underlying profit before tax of up to $1.3 billion in the first half of the current financial year.

The result comes despite the wider group recording an underlying loss before tax of $1.86 billion in its last full-year results and claiming the pandemic cost its airlines $7 billion in total.

Earlier this month, Qantas’ AGM strongly backed a $4 million bonus package for chief executive Alan Joyce, despite reports one of three major ‘proxy firms’ told its members that the CEO’s targets weren’t “sufficiently challenging”.

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Comments (2)

  • Peter


    The original court ruling (that Qantas is now appealing in the High Court) has continually and intentionally been misrepresented by the TWU, as well as many media outlets who either did not understand the original court ruling or simply waned to be sensationalist and indulge themselves in a bit of populist Qantas bashing.

    The original court ruling was as follows”
    “ The Federal Court agreed with our commercial reasons, but could not rule out that avoiding future industrial action was also a factor in the outsourcing. We have always rejected this, which is why are taking our appeal to the High Court.”

    It was the industrially technical latter part of the Federal Court ruling that was controversial within the narrow halls of industrial law. In and of itself it was meaningless as it changeD nothing. It was in fact a worthless addendum that did nothing more than slightly besmirch Qantas’ reputation within the tight, closed industrial sphere. Qantas is challenging this reputational smear – very similar to how an individual may mount a defamation action when they believe their reputation has been damaged.

    So the result of the High Court decision will have an almost negligible impact on anything whatsoever.

    All that has happened is the TWU in pursuing a fight with Qantas (and leveraging the Federal Court decision by distorting it beyond its real terms as a publicity stunt) has callously built up completely false hopes among previous Qantas employees – when there was no hope of re-employment ir compensation from day one. It is in fact a gross abuse of the membership base by those in power within the TWU – simply to progress their own personal selfish populist political agenda – not really giving a damn about their constituents. This is all about the TWU executive one day getting higher political office. This is their true agenda.

    • Vannus


      Thank you, Peter, very well said.

      The TWU has a vendetta against QANTAS.
      This is evident by the spurious legal cases’ they’ve been mounting against the Company, since 29th October 2011, when the fleet was grounded, due THREE months’ of daily TWU strikes, in which the Airline was losing ONE MILLION $ per day.

      Not only financial loss was happening for our National Carrier, but its’ staff were being subjected to physical & obscene verbal abuse by disgruntled passengers’, at airports’, Ticket Offices, & Telephone Sales departments’.

      It’s to be hoped QANTAS wins this High Court appeal.

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