BNR – Australia’s top court has ruled in unanimity that Qantas Airways unlawfully outsourced 1,700 positions during the pandemic.
The High Court of Australia handed down the ruling against the airline. It said that Qantas had breached the country’s Fair Work Act, protecting workers’ rights.
The controversial outsourcing occurred in November 2020 when Qantas decided to fire baggage handlers and cleaners at ten airports.
The outsourcing occurred as Australia was facing a border lockdown, resulting in huge losses for the aviation industry.
Qantas expressed regret for the decision and issued an apology to the affected employees. However, the airline defended outsourcing as a necessary financial measure to navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic.
The High Court maintained that Qantas might have had “sound commercial reasons” for the action. However, the court said it had deprived workers of their rights to engage in “protected industrial action and bargaining.”
Workers’ Legal Victory
For the workers and labour unions, the court’s ruling represents a significant victory in the battle.
The Transport Workers’ Union had a significant stance in the legal process. It has called for a total overhaul of the Qantas board and the appointment of a representative for employees.
Michael Kaine, the national secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, characterised Qantas’s actions as the biggest illegal dismissal in Australia’s history.
He further stated that the affected workers would now seek compensation through legal channels.
Qantas Faces Public Outrage
Furthermore, this legal setback comes amid a backdrop of public outrage directed at Qantas.
The airline has recently reported record profits while facing allegations of misconduct related to its operations during the pandemic. This includes claims that it sold tickets for thousands of flights that were subsequently cancelled.
Qantas has also been accused of supporting a government decision to block the expansion of Qatar Airways flights in Australia. Indeed, the move was criticised for limiting market competition and potentially raising fares.
In response to the controversies, Alan Joyce, former CEO of Qantas, announced his early departure from the company last week.
Vanessa Hudson, who succeeds him, has become the airline’s first-ever female leader and has pledged to restore its tarnished reputation.