Contributed by Ben Wilson
Ever since Qantas told thousands of its workers that they were going to lose their jobs, these workers have been fighting back in airports around Australia.
With the backing of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), they have been involved in a joint industrial and legal campaign. Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have been engaged to go to the Federal Court and challenge the outsourcing of 2,000 jobs.
Qantas has used the argument that a $4 billion loss of revenue and $2.2 billion in earnings for 2020, has made this necessary. But the company has already been partly compensated with a more than $800 million government handout.
The strategy to reduce permanent jobs and outsources them has been locked in since well before the pandemic.
“If Qantas can replace thousands of its employees with cheaper, insecure labour hire employees then this can happen to any other employee in any Australian workplace,” said lawyer Josh Bornstein.
An aspect of this case is that Qantas has actively sought to avoid sitting down at the table and talk to the workers and their representatives. Critics are saying, if the company is facing some genuine hardship, putting the cards on the table would allow some negotiation, and perhaps, a workable deal to be agreed on.
Industrial relations inside Qantas have been toxic for years, according to those who work inside the company.
Photo by Dean Lewins/AAP: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been a prime mover towards labour hire
The strategy is to create a situation where management will no longer feel compelled to sit down and talk out problems. The preference has shifted to casual labour, where separates decisions and their application.
“Instead, Qantas will be able to unilaterally impose a price for the services of outsourced workers, and those outsourced workers will not be allowed to bargain with Qantas under current IR laws,” added Josh Bornstein.
Qantas workers and their union cannot afford to lose this battle. It will have far reaching implications into the future.
Some people are suggesting that Qantas is big enough and has the resources to weather the present storm, and that it should be putting a higher premium on its Workers and the interests of Australia than it has to date.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas workers were taking a stance against the airline’s management.
He said, “We believe that not only is the move by Qantas management to kill off the jobs of 2,000 workers morally wrong. It is also illegal under the Fair Work Act.
“Qantas management is acting out of control, sacking workers who are united and who stand up to them when they try to drag down conditions and standards”.