Aviation

Qantas accused of “wage theft” over Christmas volunteer program

Qantas is being accused of “wage theft” and “Grinch” behaviour after launching a new volunteer program for head office workers.

The program, which was emailed out to staff members, asked them to volunteer their time at the airport during the busy period.

“To support our airport teams at [Sydney International Terminal] over the 2018 peak Christmas travel period, we’re trialling a new volunteer program for our Campus-based people who’d like to lend a hand to the front line in December and January,” the email states, according to SMH.

“We require volunteers to assist at the self-service check-ins and auto bag drop area, bussing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk. The roles allocated to volunteers will depend on their preferences, skillset and security requirements.”

Participants of the program appear to have been asked to volunteer to work extra four-hour shifts, but are only paid for their regular rostered hours.

The Australian Services Union’s NSW branch secretary Natalie Lang has called on the airline to withdraw the request and instead roster on additional staff.

Lang told SMH the request for volunteers amounted to “wage theft” and was a “classic Grinch tale”.

“This is the period where it is so busy that Qantas actually jacks up its prices and price gouges people travelling to see loved ones … but yet they expect those people supporting those extra travellers to work for free,” she said.

“They’re robbing everyone at Christmas.”

Qantas has insisted the program is not about “cutting costs” but aims to spread “a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period.”

“We always scale up with additional paid staff over the peak holiday period,” he said. “And we also ask head office employees if they’d like to lend a hand, which is a mix of their own time and company time,” the airline said in a statement.

The airline has also said the volunteer hours are typically taken up by its executives who use the opportunity as a chance to spend time on the frontline, but Lang has since rejected the claim.

“They would not have this program if they weren’t putting pressure on people to work for free,” she told SMH.

“It’s offensive to pretend this is about executives walking down to help the front line. If Alan Joyce wants to help, he can go ahead. He doesn’t need a program to do that.”

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