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Qantas outsourcing appeal verdict due Wednesday

written by Jake Nelson | September 12, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Qantas 737, VH-VXA

The High Court is due to hand down its verdict on Qantas’s appeal over the outsourcing of around 1,700 ground workers at 10:30am on Wednesday.

Qantas’s last-ditch bid follows a 2021 ruling that it had illegally sacked 1,683 workers in 2020–21 to head off industrial action, which was upheld last year by the Full Federal Court. The airline has argued that the workers did not have the right to take protected industrial action (PIA) at the time.

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 and that the workers were not legally permitted to take PIA 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.”

Michael Kaine, national secretary of the TWU, said in May that the “eyes of the nation” would be watching for the results of the significant case.

“There are few who have not been affected by the cruel conduct of the Joyce-led Qantas management team. Workers and their families had lifelong careers ripped away from them, passengers lost the safety and service standards they deserve, and workers across the country now feel the threat of their own job being outsourced to the lowest bidder,” he said.

“The High Court’s decision to grant leave for this case to be heard highlights the significance and enormity of this matter, in what could be the largest unlawful mass sacking this country has ever seen.”

If Qantas’s case fails, a compensation package for the affected workers is likely, though the Full Federal Court did not make the airline reinstate the workers in its own ruling.

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