Qantas workers protest proposed ground operations cuts

Melbourne, Australia - Jan 31st, 2020: QANTAS aircraft being reloaded for flight, at Tullamarine Airport. QANTAS is Australia’s largest airline and was founded in 1920, as Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services.

Hundreds of Qantas workers have protested against the proposed outsourcing of its ground operations, following news the airline is considering the move which would see almost 2,500 jobs lost.

During the protests, which took place earlier today at Sydney and Adelaide airports, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) called for the federal government to take an equity stake in Qantas, in return for the $515 million in gross government support already paid to the airline.

It comes after the Qantas Group revealed Qantas along with Jetstar was reviewing whether to outsource its ground handling operations at the 10 airports where the work is done in-house, and its bus services for customers and employees around Sydney Airport.

The Qantas Group said such a move would affect 2,420 employees across Qantas and Jetstar, on top of the 6,000 job cuts already announced, and would save the group an estimated $100 million in operating costs each year.

The announcement followed a net loss of $1.9 billion for the group in FY20 and a $4 billion drop in revenue in the second half of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated border restrictions.

Speakers at the Sydney protest included Qantas workers, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine, Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey and NSW ALP deputy leader Yasmin Cately.

In a statement in the lead-up to today’s protests, Kaine said taxpayers had been “ripped off” and Qantas workers left “high and dry” by their employer with the announcement of further potential job cuts.

“The prime minister said the point of JobKeeper was to keep the connection between employers and workers,” he said.

“Yet Qantas has received hundreds of millions of dollars in wage subsidies and now wants to outsource jobs that it admits still exists.

“This is a gross violation of the intent of JobKeeper and we are urging the federal government to take an equity stake in the airline to protect taxpayers’ interests.

“The money Qantas says it will save through outsourcing these jobs is around four times what they paid their CEO Alan Joyce last year.

“So, 2,500 workers are being sacrificed at the height of a pandemic by a company which has made an art form out of greed.

“Mr Joyce must resign and Qantas must become the responsible employer that the Australian community wants it to be.”

Qantas yesterday dismissed calls for Joyce’s resignation, and said that while the group had received $515 million in gross government support, as outlined in its annual results released on 20 August, the net benefit to Qantas was $15 million.

A Qantas spokesman told Travel Weekly that $267 million of the government support was in the form of JobKeeper payments, most of which, he said, went directly to “our people who are stood down without work”.

The balance of that $267 million was used as a wage subsidy for those still working, while the remainder of the $515 million went to run flights on behalf of government.

These included “more than 100 international services to assist with repatriation as well as domestic flights to maintain key transport links”, services, the spokesman said, which would not have otherwise been commercially viable.

“When we announced all these figures on 20 August, the TWU issued a statement (here) to say that Qantas in fact needed more support from government,” the spokesman told Travel Weekly.

Travel Weekly has reached out to Qantas for further comment.

Featured image source: iStock/DLMcK

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