The TWU has accused Qantas of using the “cover of COVID” to reduce the pay and conditions of staff after it emerged the Flying Kangaroo had approached 1,500 former cabin crew asking them to return.
The union says those coming back would return to lower-paying jobs because they lost out on previous union agreements after having departed.
Qantas, however, said it has been getting a “great response” from its recruitment drives.
The Flying Kangaroo made an initial 6,000 staff redundant in the early stages of the pandemic, before then outsourcing 2,000 more roles.
The Federal Court twice ruled the latter action was partially in breach of the Fair Work Act, though the flag carrier has won the right to a final appeal in the High Court.
Qantas cabin crew manager Leeanne Langridge wrote an email to former staff that said, “As one of our cabin crew members who made an incredibly difficult decision to leave Qantas during the pandemic, we want to provide an update on how our recovery is going and the very different circumstances in which we’re operating today.
“Our crew are now operating to more than 45 domestic and 18 international destinations. Our domestic network is close to 100 per cent of pre-Covid capacity, and our international network is expected to be at 80 per cent by mid-year.
“We are reaching out to you to see if you are interested in being part of Qantas’ next chapter.”
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the move was “entirely predictable”.
“This proves without a doubt that Qantas management had a premeditated plan throughout the pandemic to clear out workers who had spent years building up good, secure jobs, to replace them with lower-paying, insecure work,” said Kaine.
“This all took place while Qantas was receiving $2 billion in unconditional corporate welfare from the Morrison Government, including more JobKeeper than any other company to keep workers engaged with their employer.
“Aviation relies on highly trained, skilled workers. We have seen absolute chaos across our airports over the last year with chronic understaffing and a colossal loss of skill and experience.”
Last year, Qantas faced a string of problems, including huge delays at Easter, hours-long call wait times, and even a revelation that the cabin crew of a Qantas A330 were made to sleep across seats in economy. Across the industry, school holidays led to the worst delays on record in April, June, and July.
However, since then, Qantas has been holding capacity in reserve to mitigate problems caused by staff shortages and hiring more workers.
In November, the airline bounced back from being the worst in the country for cancellations to being the best.