Qantas has won the right to a final appeal against the federal court’s decision that it was wrong to outsource 1,600 ground handlers.
In early 2021, Flying Kangaroo moved to outsource ground handling at Australia’s 10 airports where it still operated it in-house, including Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne. This decision led to a total of almost 2,000 job cuts.
The TWU took the airline to court over the decision, and in August 2021 the federal court ruled that Qantas had violated parts of the Fair Work Act, then denied an initial appeal.
Qantas has consistently denied doing anything illegal.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said: “While it is deeply disappointing for workers, it is clear that the Supreme Court believes it is in the public interest to hear such an extraordinary case, which has sent shockwaves through the economy and throwing Qantas into chaos.
“Despite the airline’s ongoing crisis, overpaid executives are so vehement about their illegal actions that they are dragging out a costly legal battle rather than reinstating or compensating the skilled workers who built the spirit of Australia.”
Qantas said on Friday it had always expressed its “deep regret” at reels being lost as a result of the pandemic.
“When we made this decision there was very little certainty about the pandemic and our recovery, and it has remained so for more than a year afterwards.
“We ended up losing more than $25 billion in revenue, so it was inevitable that we had to take significant action.”
After its first court victory, TWU initially urged staff to be allowed to return to their old jobs, but a judge said a return was impossible because the airline had already disbanded its Qantas ground-handling team and offloaded its equipment.
The appeal news comes after Qantas’ COVID changes helped produce a notable turnaround, meaning the company is now targeting underlying profit before tax of up to $1.3 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year.
The result comes even as the broader group reported an underlying pre-tax loss of $1.86 billion in its most recent full-year results and claimed the pandemic cost its airlines a total of $7 billion.
Earlier this month, Qantas AGM strongly backed a $4 million bonus package for CEO Alan Joyce, despite reports that one of three major “proxy firms” told its members that the CEO’s goals weren’t “challenging enough”.