The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has announced it has taken Qantas to Federal Court over its controversial decision to outsource 2,000 jobs, saying the airline acted in violation of the Fair Work Act.
The TWU’s case is being represented by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who says it will file a test case on behalf of the 2,000 workers that had their jobs outsourced in the hope Qantas will overturn its decision. The law firm has said while many major companies in Australia have been hit by the pandemic, few have moved to outsource such a number of positions as cost-cutting measures.
We reported late last week that Qantas was moving to outsource 2,000 jobs that impacts positions like baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and ramp operators across 11 major airports in Australia.
That move came after Qantas had already announced the outsourcing of 400 Jetstar positions.
Now, however, lawyers acting on the behalf of the Transport Workers Union say that the decision is unlawful under the Fair Work Act, and is asking the Federal Court to overturn the move.
Principal at Maurice Blackburn, Josh Bornstein has said that the case will be an indication of whether or not outsourcing jobs is legal under the Fair Work Act. “This legal challenge will put outsourcing on trial,” Bornstein said.
“If Qantas can replace thousands of its employees with cheaper, insecure labour hire employees then this can happen to any other employee in any Australian workplace,” he added.
Mr Bornstein alleges that Qantas’ move to outsource 2,000 jobs was an attempt to circumvent any collective bargaining under the Fair Work Act, which he says is a violation of industrial relations laws.
“If the outsourcing proceeds, Qantas will no longer have to negotiate with the workers who perform the work,” he said, adding that “instead, Qantas will be able to unilaterally impose a price for the services of outsourced workers, and those outsourced workers will not be allowed to bargain with Qantas under the current IR laws.”
Bornstein continued to explain that his law firm “will be asking the court to interrogate the real reason behind Qantas’ [outsourcing] decision,” adding that “there have been successful challenges to outsourcing in the past – case on the waterfront – where we stopped outsourcing.”
“Qantas is the only one who has taken this course,” Bornstein said in relation to the decision to outsource 2,000 jobs, and called into question the $800 million of Federal Government stimulus that Qantas has received.
Qantas’ Chief Executive, Alan Joyce has denied allegations that the outsourcing of 2,000 jobs is unlawful under the Fair Work Act, adding that the airline took a $4 billion hit to its revenue in 2020, and was forced to take drastic action.
“That’s why we remain focused on delivering on our recovery program, which unfortunately involves following through on some hard decisions to restructure and respond to the new set of circumstances we’re faced with,” Mr Joyce said.
A Qantas spokesperson has told the ABC that “we recognise that this is a difficult decision which impacts a lot of our people but outsourcing this work to specialist ground handlers who already do this work for us in other cities across the country is not unlawful.”
The TWU’s National Secretary, Michael Kaine has said that “we believe that not only is this move by Qantas management to kill off the jobs of 2,000 workers morally wrong, it is also illegal under the Fair Work Act.”
“Qantas management is acting out of control, sacking workers who are united and who stand up to them when they try to drag down conditions and standards,” he added.