Qantas culls 2000 baggage handling jobs as part of operational overhaul

Qantas has confirmed thousands of staff will lose their jobs after a decision to outsource the majority of its ground-handling operations.

Qantas has confirmed thousands of ground staff will lose their jobs after a cost-cutting decision to outsource the majority of its ground-handling operations.

The embattled airline has revealed 2000 jobs will be permanently axed across 10 Australian airports as part of its operational overhaul to ensure the flying kangaroo can remain in the skies beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

Qantas’s decision comes after months of operational reviews that began in August to reduce the size of the business following subdued travel numbers due to the health crisis.

Monday’s announcement brings the total job losses at Qantas to about 8500 of its 29,000 pre-pandemic workforce.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has lashed out at Australia’s premier airline, saying it was a “dark day” for the industry and will force more families to face the grim prospect of joining the Centrelink queue.

In a press conference on Monday afternoon, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the decision was a not a “COVID response” and contradicted Qantas’s obligations under the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas’s decision was a not a ‘COVID response. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas’s decision was a not a ‘COVID response.

“(The federal government) continues to pump millions of dollars into Qantas through wage supports and other financial assistance with no conditions attached,” Mr Kaine said.

“There is no benefit to the Australian community when taxpayers spend billions only to result in workers in good jobs being thrown on the scrap heap.”

The aviation industry has been financially obliterated by COVID-19, with the health crisis causing Qantas to report a $2.7 billion statutory loss for the 2020 financial year.

The airports impacted include international and domestic operations at Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Ground services at Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Cairns, Darwin, Townsville and Alice Springs have also been cut.

Axed Qantas worker Leonie Piggott said the airline’s move was “un-Australian” and would result in thousands of workers being subjected to worse working conditions and less pay.

“We are devastated … it’s going to be heartbreaking,” she said.

“Everyone is just so upset and outraged the way that it has been done. It’s just un-Australian and abhorrent.”

Ms Piggott also said the federal government should be stepping in to reverse the airline’s decision.

RELATED: Qantas could not have prevented standing down 400 staff: court

Axed Qantas worker Leonie Piggot. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

Axed Qantas worker Leonie Piggot. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard.

RELATED: Backlash as Qantas cuts 2500 more jobs by outsourcing ground handling

Qantas chief executive of domestic and international operations Andrew David said the industry had been turned “upside down” and it would take years to recoup the financial damage inflicted by the global shutdown.

“This is another tough day for Qantas, particularly for our ground-handling teams and their families,” Mr David said.

“Unfortunately, COVID has turned aviation upside down. Airlines around the world are having to make dramatic decisions in order to survive, and the damage will take years to repair.”

The premier airline said impacted staff would be entitled to redundancy packages, and it would help workers find jobs outside of the company.

It is expected the outsourcing of ground-handling operations will reduce costs by $100 million annually and avoid large spending on ground-handling equipment.

It is understood most major airlines around the world outsourced ground handling services to third parties years ago.

Qantas chief executive of domestic and international operations Andrew David said the industry had been turned ‘upside down’. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Qantas chief executive of domestic and international operations Andrew David said the industry had been turned ‘upside down’. 

“Qantas has spent hundreds of millions in training these workers up over decades to achieve high standards, and the idea of pushing them out the door to replace them with less-trained workers on lower conditions is sickening,” Mr Kaine from the TWU said.

The TWU has also taken aim at the millions of dollars paid to senior executives during the pandemic.

In the financial year 2019, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce received a $24 million pay package – making him the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline boss in the world.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Qantas has taken on an additional $1.5 billion in debt in order to keep the business afloat.

Mr Joyce and other senior executives took significant pay reductions after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

In financial year 2019, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce received a $24 million pay package. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Flavio Brancaleone

In financial year 2019, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce received a $24 million pay package. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Flavio Brancaleone.

Qantas confirmed the outsourced services would comprise operators including Swissport, dnata, Menzies and Star Aviation.

“While there has been some good news recently with domestic borders, international travel isn’t expected to return to pre-COVID levels until at least 2024,” Mr David said.

“We have a massive job ahead of us to repay debt, and we know our competitors are aggressively cutting costs to emerge leaner.”

The TWU had submitted bids on behalf of ground-handling staff for operations to stay with Qantas, but it was unsuccessful.

Mr David said the in-house bid by the TWU was completely theoretical and did not articulate how projected cost savings would be achieved.

He said Qantas had made three separate extensions for the TWU, but the union failed to “outline sufficient practical detail”.

“Even with the involvement of a large accounting firm, the bid falls well short of what the specialist external providers were able to come up with,” he said.

The TWU said outsourcing specialist ground handlers was unsafe and the bid process was a sham.

It also claimed outsourcing would lower wages and working conditions, and Qantas was rorting the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

Qantas refutes these claims.

 



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