Australia’s biggest cabin crew union has accused Qantas of a “breathtaking” lack of transparency over the deal that will see Finnair crew operate the Flying Kangaroo’s flights.
The Flight Attendants Association of Australia has said the airline suggested the agreement would save the jobs of Finnair staff but was later informed the employees would be sourced from “labour-hire” firms.
Qantas has strongly denied the accusation and insisted it was “very upfront” about the terms of the agreement.
The row comes months after the airline revealed codeshare partner Finnair would operate selected A330 flights from Sydney to Singapore from late October and all flights between Sydney and Bangkok from March next year.
On Monday, the FAAA said it was approached on a confidential basis to approve the plan earlier this year.
“As part of the appeal to the union, Qantas advised that this was about securing the employment of Finnair Crew who were at risk of losing their jobs because of the situation in Russia and, at the same time, redeploying existing Qantas Crew and aircraft to routes they didn’t have aircraft for,” the FAAA said in a statement.
“Finnair use labour hire in a range of places around the world, however, it was presented to the FAAA that this arrangement would save the jobs of Finnair Cabin Crew when in fact, it’s about expanding the offshore arrangements for Finnair with labour Hire.
“The crew work for AAP, a labour-hire provider and not Finnair. Airlines around the world are driving down conditions of direct employees and offshoring their work where they can.
“Qantas cabin crew are concerned that this is part of a wider offshoring strategy of Australian Cabin Crew for the Qantas Group.
“Whilst Qantas are suggesting that from late 2025 these flights will be operated by Qantas Cabin Crew and Pilots, there are no guarantees. And what will happen then to all the crew that have been recruited in Asia to do these flights?
“The Qantas Group already outsources to Asian-based labour-hire firms a lot of Cabin Crew work that should be done by Australians in Australia.
The FAAA’s manager of industrial relations, Steven Reed, said the “lack of transparency” was “breathtaking”.
“We were briefed on a commercial in confidence basis earlier in the year, and the information we were provided about saving the jobs of Finnair crew is inconsistent with what’s happening in practice.”
“We thought we were doing something to assist Qantas, to access more aircraft and save jobs, and we find out that additional labour hire crew are being recruited in Asia to do work that should be done by Australians”.
Qantas has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, telling The Australian that the Finnair aircraft was “never going to be done by Qantas cabin crew for the first two years”.
“But it will be done by Qantas crew for the following two years, and we believed the FAAA chose not to oppose the overall deal for that reason,” the airline said.
“If the FAAA’s position is that Qantas partners aren’t allowed to source labour as they see fit, that feels a bit like overreach.”
Qantas is currently undergoing a major fleet renewal program, dubbed Project Winton, which means it will either buy or have purchase rights to up to 299 narrow-body and 12 wide-body aircraft for delivery over the next decade.
The latter includes an option to purchase up to 85 additional Airbuses through to 2034.
Jetstar, meanwhile, is also in the middle of taking delivery of 38 A321neos, comprising 18 A321 LR and 20 A321XLR aircraft.