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Qantas sacks 6000 staff

Qantas has cut 6,000 jobs due to the coronavirus downturn. (Photographer: Ian Waldie/Bloomberg)

Australian airline Qantas will permanently terminate 6,000 jobs.

Chief executive Alan Joyce acknowledged his regret at the circumstances.

"Many of the 6,000 job losses we're announcing today are people who have spent decades here. It's not unusual to have several members of one family working at Qantas and Jetstar."

With international travel non-existent and domestic travel severely restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the aviation industry has been under pressure in the past three months.

"What makes this even harder is that right before this crisis hit, we were actively recruiting," said Joyce.

“Aviation is used to sudden shocks... But we’ve never experienced anything like this before. No one has.”

Before the terminations, Qantas had 30,000 staff, of which 25,000 had been temporarily stood down earlier in the year.

Joyce said about 15,000 employees would “remain stood down for some time”, ready to be redeployed as work became available.

“Around half of those stood down will be back flying domestically – we think – by the end of the year. The remainder – mostly those supporting international flying – will return more slowly.”

Experts had earlier forecast the permanent sackings would at least match the 5,000 that current Joyce pulled off in 2014 to rescue it from a precarious financial position.

“This year was supposed to be one of celebration for Qantas. It’s our centenary,” said Joyce.

“Clearly, it is not turning out as planned.”

Australian Services Union assistant national secretary Linda White called for Qantas to reverse its decision to sack workers.

“Cutting jobs and capacity now will only hamstring the industry and economy – Qantas is shooting itself in the foot,” she said.

“If Qantas does not reverse its decision, we will fight for these jobs to be retained.”

The airline also announced it would start a capital raising round to boost its balance sheet by up to $1.9 billion – to use for its recovery out of the current depression. The company will also undergo an operational restructure to cut costs.

“While we have to make some painful decisions, we have to focus on that future,” Joyce said.

“We know that flying will return. Out people will be back in the skies. No aircraft will sit idle. And new ones will be arriving – including for more ultra long-haul flights.”

With these moves, Qantas is expecting to save around $15 billion of costs over the next three years as demand recovers. From financial year 2023 it is forecast to save $1 billion annually.

As many as 100 planes will be grounded for up to 12 months, some even longer, including most of the international fleet. The company’s six remaining Boeing 747s will be retired immediately.

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