21 May, 2024
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Qantas board needs to look at themselves: Opposition


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Australia’s largest airline has been accused of “malicious intent” after the High Court ruled Qantas illegally sacked almost 1700 workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Nationals leader David Littleproud said it’s now clear that Qantas did the wrong thing and pointed out that new CEO Vanessa Hudson was chief financial officer at the time.

“There are serious cultural deficiencies at Qantas,” he told Nine’s Today show on Thursday.

“I think this has malicious intent – they were taking advantage of what was the biggest crisis since the Second World War in this country and … took advantage of it at these workers’ expense.

“There are serious questions that need to be looked at … the board needs to act swiftly, or themselves step aside.”

The affected ex-Qantas employees will seek compensation and penalties, which could run into the hundreds of millions, after the High Court ruling on Wednesday.

In a unanimous judgment, the court dismissed an appeal from the carrier which had sought to overturn two rulings made by the Federal Court that the outsourcing of baggage handlers, cleaners and ground staff was unlawful.

Qantas was found in the Federal Court to have breached the Fair Work Act in outsourcing its ground operations to avoid enterprise bargaining rights, after the Transport Workers’ Union took legal action against the carrier.

The airline, which retrenched workers in 2020, lost billions of dollars during the pandemic, which decimated the aviation sector.

Qantas said 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”.

“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 airline said in a statement.

“A prior decision by the Federal Court has ruled out reinstatement of workers but it will now consider penalties for the breach and compensation for relevant employees, which will factor in redundancy payments already made by Qantas.”

Qantas posted an underlying profit of almost $2.5 billion for the 2022/23 financial year.

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