Aviation

“It’s more like a bribe”: Unions slam Qantas’ $5,000 ‘thank you’ payment

Aviation unions the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) and Australian Services Union (ASU) have slammed Qantas’ latest tactics to pressure workers into accepting ‘wage freeze’ deals resulting in long-term damage to their wages, conditions and superannuation.

The unions called for the $5,000 ‘thank you’ payment to be paid to all workers without conditions attached, including the 2,000 workers the TWU said were illegally sacked by the airline during the pandemic.

As a result of the outsourcing, workers never received the previous conditional bonus that was also tied to enterprise agreements following the last unilateral wage freeze imposed by the airline.

Over a year later, almost half of the outsourced workers are still struggling without a permanent job, according to a TWU survey released this week.

Of the half who have managed to get a job, only a quarter were able to remain in aviation, 43 per cent had to retrain or reskill and 70 per cent are now worse off.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said: “This is not a ‘thank you’ payment, it’s more like a bribe. The strings attached to this sham payment are just more wage suppression tactics Qantas has become accustomed to under the 15-year Joyce regime.

“All workers, especially those illegally sacked by Qantas management are owed this payment and far more.

“Outsourced workers were already ripped-off by a 2019 bogus bonus designed to pressure workers into accepting shoddy deals to suppress wages and conditions.

“These workers never even had the chance to negotiate those agreements because Qantas management outsourced them to avoid collective bargaining – which four federal court judges unanimously agreed was unlawful.”

The unions claim that Qantas has used heavy-handed tactics to pressure workers into accepting wage freeze deals and substandard conditions including applying to terminate the international cabin crew agreement to hang a 40 per cent pay cut over workers’ heads, and threats to push pilot jobs elsewhere if an agreement was not accepted.

In September 2021 Qantas’ financial report revealed CEO Alan Joyce enjoyed a pay rise in his take-home pay to $2 million and an offer of $3.7 million in performance-based bonuses, while workers were subjected to unilateral wage freezes. The top six executives received a total of $13.6 million in base salary.

In July, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors’ annual report on CEO pay showed Alan Joyce earned a total ‘realised pay’ package of $10.74 million in FY2020.

FAAA federal secretary Teri O’Toole said: “Qantas management doesn’t understand the meaning of negotiating ‘in good faith’.

“This conditional payment in no way makes up for the disgraceful tactics used by Qantas management to coerce international cabin crew into accepting a deal that they virtually unanimously voted against for how it worsened their jobs and work-life balance.

“Domestic cabin crew are bargaining now and we were waiting for another underhanded tactic to pressure them into a shoddy deal – well, here it is.”

A spokesperson from Qantas said that the airline reject the unions’ claim that this is a bribe and drew attention to this quote from Joyce.

“Today, we’re announcing a one-off payment that goes some of the way to acknowledging the sacrifices our people have made, including long periods of no work and no annual wage increases,” he said.

“It also recognises the great work they are doing as we restart the airline, which has been challenging for everyone.”



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