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Qantas loses its industrial relations appeal

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Qantas loses its industrial relations appeal
The High Court of Australia has dismissed an appeal from Qantas which sought to overturn two previous decisions siding with the airline’s former employees.

Australia’s highest court upheld previous Federal Court rulings that Qantas breached the Fair Work Act when it outsourced 1,700 ground crew, because, as the airline’s own statement acknowledging today’s final judgement puts it, the court “could not rule out that Qantas also had an unlawful reason – namely, avoiding future industrial action”.

Even as it acknowledged the latest ruling, Qantas continues to maintain the decision to outsource was made due to uncertainty of the time.

“The decision to outsource the remainder of the airline’s ground handling function was made in August 2020, when borders were closed, lockdowns were in place and no COVID vaccine existed,” says the Qantas statement.

“The likelihood of a years’ long crisis led Qantas to restructure its business to improve its ability to survive and ultimately recover.

“As we have said from the beginning, we deeply regret the personal impact the outsourcing decision had on all those affected and we sincerely apologise for that.”

The overturning of the appeal means the workers who lost their jobs due to the outsourcing arrangement can now seek compensation.

Meanwhile, in the wake of today’s decision, the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which brought the case against Qantas, is calling for the resignation of the entire Qantas board and for it to deny its former CEO, Alan Joyce, who left the airline abruptly last week, his final bonus.

“The final act of this board should be to strip Alan Joyce of his bonuses and follow him out the door,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

“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. Richard Goyder cannot make it through another day as Chair.

“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.”

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