Aviation

Qantas wins Federal Court appeal for JobKeeper back pay case

Qantas has won an appeal against the Federal Court’s ruling that it had to back pay hundreds of workers after it decided the company would have to pass on the full JobKeeper amount.

In September, unions argued in court that the airline refused to pay workers for public holidays, weekends, overtime work and allowances by standing workers down for the rest of their pay period and manipulating the pay system so workers only receive the basic JobKeeper payment of $1,500 per fortnight.

Meanwhile, Qantas argued that payments made in arrears to workers for doing overtime should be counted against the JobKeeper payments.

However, Justice Geoffrey Flick ruled that “the overtime component of the amount to which the employee is contractually entitled, and the amount received by the employee during the second fortnight being the JobKeeper payment, cannot be ‘set off’ or otherwise called to account by Qantas to relieve it of its obligation to also pay the JobKeeper payment”.

“All such inquiries as to the pay cycle of employers or the terms upon which an employer may pay an employee assume no relevance,” he said.

“If the consequence of the interpretation now … is that idiosyncrasies arise in respect to the quantification of amounts that an employee is to receive – including the prospect that employees may benefit from a ‘windfall’ – so be it.”

“It remains a matter for the legislature to ‘tweak’ or adjust the scheme if it sees fit.”

However, on Thursday morning the Full Federal Court overturned the ruling, agreeing with Qantas that payments made to workers should be counted against JobKeeper payments.

A Qantas spokesperson told ABC News the airline was pleased with the result.

“We have always made JobKeeper payments to our employees according to advice from the Australian Tax Office (ATO),” the airline’s spokesman said.

“Most of the JobKeeper payments Qantas has received went straight to employees who were stood down.”

However, Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) national secretary Michael Kaine told ABC News the airline had mounted a costly legal battle against its workers.

“[Qantas] is also fighting its sick workers over their rights to use the leave they have built up,'” Kaine said.

“At the same time, it is trashing and outsourcing its entire 2,500 ground workers. This is happening as the public is picking up the bill for their workers’ wages and pumping money in to keep the airline flying.”

This is the second time the airline has won an appeal against unions in a month, with the Federal Court dismissing an appeal from furloughed Qantas workers seeking to be paid sick leave in late November.

The workers, including a man who has been battling cancer and another with heart disease both with over 30 years work at Qantas, alongside the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), took the case to court in April after the airline refused to pay them sick leave during the stand-down period.

The airline won the case in May, with the Federal Court ruling it would not have to pay sick leave to furloughed workers.

Travel Weekly has contacted both Qantas and the TWU for comment.


Featured image source: iStock/Frogman1484

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