Qantas loses High Court appeal over sacked workers

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Qantas has lost its High Court bid to overturn a Federal Court decision that it illegally sacked almost 1700 ground handling staff during the pandemic, in another blow to the national carrier’s reputation.

Qantas stood down the ground staff in November 2020 and began using third-party providers including Dnata, Menzies and Swissport, which are also used by other global airlines including Emirates and Etihad.

The High Court decision follows years of legal proceedings after Qantas sacked ground staff during the pandemic.Credit: Wolter Peters

In a decision which will be celebrated by the union movement, the High Court ruled in favour of the Transport Workers Union after upholding a previous decision by the Federal Court that Qantas had acted illegally in outsourcing the jobs of baggage handlers, cleaners and other “under the wing” services.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine paid tribute to the workforce’s determination to hold Qantas management to account.

“Qantas workers have made history today. It has been three years and 20 days since Alan Joyce first announced the decision to outsource these workers, and they have not stopped fighting for a moment to ensure justice was served,” he said in a statement released shortly after the decision was handed down.

“The final act of this board should be to strip Alan Joyce of his bonuses and follow him out the door.

“The Joyce regime has been toppled, but the airline cannot achieve the reset necessary for its survival under the same board that resided over the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian corporate history.”

Kaine called on Qantas chair Richard Goyder to step down.

“Qantas needs a fresh start. A worker voice on the board would make a significant difference and send the right signal that Qantas is serious about getting back on track,” he said.

“All eyes will be on Vanessa Hudson as she responds to this verdict. Illegally sacked workers are owed an apology and an end to Qantas’ attempts to delay paying compensation and penalties.”

Lawyers representing the workers said they would now go to the Federal Court to hear claims for compensation and seek penalties.

The decision follows the early departure of Qantas chief-executive Alan Joyce amid a political storm due to a combination of customer complaints, a consumer watchdog investigation, and questions over its influence on government decisions.

A Senate inquiry has been launched into Transport Minister Catherine King’s decision to reject Qatar Airways’ bid for increased flights in Australia, which she said was not motivated by the commercial interests of any one airline.

Qantas lodged the last-ditch appeal following a 2021 decision in the Federal Court, which found the airline business had contravened the Fair Work Act when it stood down employees working at 11 airports during the pandemic in November 2020.

The full bench of the Federal Court then upheld this decision in 2022, but the courts did not force the group to reinstate the affected employees.

The Federal Court was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Qantas was motivated only by commercial reasons and could not rule out that the carrier group also may have been trying to avoid future industrial action.

Qantas said the decision was solely motivated by its struggles to remain solvent and expressed “deep regret” that its staff had to lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

“There was very little certainty about the pandemic and our recovery when we made this decision, and it remained that way for more than a year afterwards. We ultimately lost more than $25 billion in revenue, so it was inevitable that we had to take significant action,” an airline spokesperson has previously said.

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article