Op-Ed: Qantas redundancies act of industrial vandalism

Aviation workers have been dealt another shocking blow less than four weeks out from Christmas.

Last week, Qantas announced 2,000 baggage handlers, ramp and cleaning staff will be made redundant across 10 airports in Australia. Their jobs will be outsourced to workers on lower wages and eroded conditions.

What is being dressed up as a “COVID recovery plan,” is in fact the execution of a 10-year Qantas strategy to outsource all airport ground handling work by 2020, exposed by internal company documents in September.

This announcement comes after the company has benefited from over $800 million in public funding including JobKeeper, under a covenant of trust that it would be used to protect jobs.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine, described Qantas’ decision to reject its own workers as “spiteful”.

It is the greatest example of industrial vandalism since the waterfront dispute.

In my electorate of Lilley, which is home to Brisbane Airport, aviation workers have been on tenterhooks all year, with 281 local ground crew impacted by today’s redundancy announcement.

When I wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in March to ask for specific support for aviation workers, I was told the Federal Government was already doing enough.

Not long after that, Virgin collapsed, putting 10,000 direct jobs and 6,000 indirect jobs at risk. At the start of August, Virgin announced that it was axing a further 3,000 staff, a third of its workforce.

The Federal Government wouldn’t help the 5,500 dnata workers who were refused the JobKeeper wage subsidy because they’re employed by a foreign-owned company.

A puzzling decision considering the Federal Government under Malcolm Turnbull signed off on the sale of Qantas’ catering business to that same foreign-owned company.

ISS Facility Services also plans to hand out redundancies at random to 210 security officers at Brisbane Airport.

What has become abundantly clear is that government support will fall short if employers are allowed to treat their workers as disposable assets.

Despite current underemployment rates of 10.4 per cent, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged his Government’s plans for further industrial relations reform.

Deregulation will only make work more precarious and more insecure at a time when Australians are begging for security and stability.

No Australian worker can afford a race to the bottom on wages and conditions.


Published by BrisbaneNow on Monday, 7 December 2020.