Qantas slammed for handing out millions in exec bonuses while customers suffer

Melbourne Australia- March 14, 2014: People queue at Melbourne Airport Qantas check in counter

Qantas has landed itself in hot water once again with unions, this time for dropping millions of dollars in bonuses to executives while customers still face delays, cancellations and lost baggage.

Last month, Qantas revealed four executives would each score shares worth between $900,000 and $1.2 million to be paid in August of 2023 as part of the airline’s retention and recovery plan.

One such executive is Qantas’ domestic and international CEO, Andrew David, who, according to the Transport Workers Union (TWU), was held responsible by the Federal Court for illegally sacking and outsourcing nearly 2,000 ground and baggage crew.

David was installed as CEO of Qantas domestic and international – functions previously covered by Group CEO Alan Joyce – just weeks before the illegal decision was made.

The union took Qantas to court over the decision and Federal Court judge, Michael Lee, found in favour of the TWU in July 2021, determining that Qantas did not prove it was not motivated by a desire to avoid industrial action by the union workers.

Qantas appealed this but the Full Federal Court upheld the decision on 3 May, spurring Qantas to take matters to the High Court to reverse the decision.

The airline has refused to reinstate the trained and experienced workers it outsourced despite the chaos at airports with lost baggage, long delays and cancellations.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said David’s million-dollar reward rubs salt into the wounds inflicted upon sacked workers.

“Qantas’ performance has plummeted following the illegal sackings of nearly 2,000 skilled ground workers,” Kaine said.

“One month after a second Federal Court ruling that the outsourcing broke the law, the person the court found responsible for the illegal decision Andrew David was awarded a bonus over $1.1 million when he should have been sacked.

“This is a sickening betrayal to illegally sacked workers, disrupted passengers, and Australian taxpayers whose support propped up the airline while executives made cruel decisions that destroyed lives.”

Just two weeks after these bonuses were posted, Qantas announced the sudden departure of Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans alongside a $5,000 payment to employees that the union has called “a bribe to pressure workers to accept wage freezes and substandard conditions”.

On Sunday, David posted an opinion piece addressing the lashing Qantas has received in the public eye over the past few weeks.

“Much has been said about Qantas in the last few months,” he began, “Some of it’s fair, as we’re absolutely not delivering the service that our customers expect, but some of it fails to take into consideration what’s happening across the industry here and around the world.”

David blamed the airline’s poor customer service performance on the economic impact of the pandemic alongside the challenges of restarting an airline after a two-year grounding, compounded by rising COVID cases during winter flu season.

“Some have pointed to Qantas’ decision to outsource ground handling as a key reason the restart has been hard. This is not true,” he said.

“It’s a difficult truth that airlines, airports, air traffic control agencies and almost every business in Australia and around the world is experiencing.”

He said the airline is combating these challenges by recruiting more people, consolidating flights, basing more customer support team members at airports and growing its call centre teams.

“As challenging as the recent travel peaks in Australia have been, airlines and airports in Europe, the US and the UK are dealing with far worse impacts,” he continued.

“Given COVID and flu will be ongoing, there will be a few more bumps along the way, but over the weeks and months ahead flying will get back to being as smooth as it used to be.”

Featured image: iStock/TkKurikawa

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