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Qantas loses last-ditch High Court outsourcing appeal

written by Jake Nelson | September 13, 2023

Seth Jaworski shot this Qantas 737-800, VH-VZP.

Qantas has lost its High Court appeal over the outsourcing of around 1,700 ground workers during the pandemic.

The Flying Kangaroo had argued against a 2021 ruling by the Full Federal Court that it had illegally sacked 1,683 workers in 2020–21. That decision was then subsequently upheld in an appeal last year.

In a statement in May, a spokesperson for Qantas said that the airline’s survival was “not assured” when it outsourced the workers in a bid to save $100 million per year. It argued that the employees were not legally permitted to take industrial action as their agreement had not expired and the process for a protected action ballot had not yet commenced.

“When we made this decision, we were still in the depth of the pandemic, and there was very little certainty about when our recovery would begin. Ultimately, we lost $25 billion in revenue so there was no way to avoid having to make significant changes,” the spokesperson said.

“While the Federal Court accepted that we had lawful and compelling commercial reasons for making the outsourcing decision, it was not convinced that preventing protected industrial action in 2021 was not relevant in the decision to outsource. We have always rejected this, which is why are taking our appeal to the High Court.


“We’ve always acknowledged that it would have been very tough on our ground handlers and the thousands of other employees who lost jobs because of the pandemic.”

The Federal Court previously ruled that Qantas had sacked the 1,683 workers in 2020–21 to head off industrial action, which is illegal under the Fair Work Act 2009.

This decision was upheld last year by the Full Federal Court, though the courts did not force Qantas to reinstate the workers.

The TWU will hold a press conference at 10:30am. More to follow…

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