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2,500 sacked Qantas staff ‘humiliated’ as outsourcing begins

Jessica Yun
·3-min read
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 20: Licensed maintenance engineers for Qantas check on their Boeing 737-800 aircraft parked on the east-west runway at Sydney's International airport on May 20, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Nine Qantas aircraft are currently in "active storage" on the runway, in a state of readiness for flight and can be prepared within 24 hours notice should they be required as conditions change. Sydney Airport has temporarily shut the east west runway to make space to store aircraft grounded due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. With non-essential travel currently banned in Australia, Qantas and Virgin Australia have grounded most of their fleets, operating a limited number of domestic and international flights. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
Qantas have fired staff in a bid to cut costs amid the international travel ban. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Employees let go by Qantas have been left “distraught” and “flabbergasted” as the airline formally inks contracts with new suppliers to outsource their jobs.

Qantas announced that it would be slashing a combined 8,500 jobs from its workforce amid reduced or halted international and domestic travel during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

CEO Alan Joyce said in June 2020 that 6,000 roles would be permanently terminated, and then in late August announced plans to cut and outsource another 2,500.

The airline confirmed on Thursday that it had finalised contracts with seven ground handling and aircraft cleaning companies.

But Transport Workers Union assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said Qantas was “cruelly” dumping the employees, who had given “decades of hard work and loyalty”.

“These workers are being replaced because Qantas wants the work to be cheaper,” McInTosh said.

“Their jobs are not redundant. Qantas still needs people to clean, load and push back their planes.”

But the workers are “distraught and flabbergasted that the airline they’ve given years of their lives to has treated them as disposable cogs in the machine,” McIntosh said.

“Last year, they were forced to go through the humiliation of bidding for their own jobs, only to be sacked in the new year anyway.

“Now the airline will never again employ another baggage handler, cabin cleaner or pushback driver.”

‘Difficult decisions’ will save Qantas $103 million a year

The Qantas spokesperson said restructuring its ground handling operations was a “key part” of the airline’s COVID-recovery plan.

“This isn’t a reflection on our people but a reflection of economies of scale and the urgent need we have because of COVID to unlock these efficiencies,” a Qantas spokesperson said.

“We are providing these employees with support as they prepare to leave the business.”

Outsourcing these workers would reduce annual costs by $103 million and reduce equipment spend by $80 million across five years, they said.

“As the recent outbreaks and border closures show, the recovery from this crisis is going to be bumpy and further underscores why we need to make these difficult decisions.

“We have used these specialist ground handlers at many Australian airports for decades and they’ve proven they can deliver a safe and reliable service more efficiently than it’s currently done in-house.”

The transition to the new suppliers will begin in the next few weeks and workers who have already been stood down for several months will officially exit the business.

The whole process is expected to be finished by March. Former employees will be offered a redundancy package, and some will be redeployed to other parts of the business.

The suppliers that will now perform ground handling services include Star Aviation, Cabin Services Australia, Swissport, dnata, Menzies, Oceania, and NWAS.

Yahoo Finance has contacted TWU for further comment.

‘AviationKeeper’

The transition for Qantas comes as the aviation industry pushes for ‘AviationKeeper’, an extension of JobKeeper that would be targeted to the industry.

A loophole in the JobKeeper legislation meant that Australian workers of companies owned by foreign governments were unable to receive JobKeeper.

“It makes no sense to remove the wage subsidy lifeline that has kept aviation businesses going and assisted many workers to keep their jobs and pay their bills while planes are grounded,” McIntosh said today.

“We need a plan to keep aviation going while borders remain shut otherwise more jobs will be lost, which would be devastating for working families, tourism and the economy’s ability to recover.”

McIntosh urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to come to the table to discuss ‘AviationKeeper’ before the March deadline of JobKeeper.

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