Court rules Qantas' move to outsource jobs as 'illegal'

Company reportedly plans to appeal before the High Court

Court rules Qantas' move to outsource jobs as 'illegal'

The Full Federal Court had recently decided that Qantas’ outsourcing of around 2,000 ground crew workers was illegal, junking the airline’s appeal to challenge the court’s prior decision.

The company’s recent appeal revolved around a reinstatement case in 2021 concerning 1,683 employees who lost their jobs after Qantas outsourced its ground handling operations to third-party contractors in ten Australian airports. At first instance, the Federal Court ruled in favour of the Transport Workers Union, the employees’ representative.

The court’s prior ruling said the company’s move to outsource its baggage-handling and cleaning jobs was illegal as it was a clear breach of employment law. Thus, the company appealed it to the Full Court but it lost again.

Meanwhile, the company maintained that outsourcing the said jobs was “pandemic-related” and based on “lawful commercial reasons.”

“Prior to the pandemic, Qantas was actively recruiting into its ground handling function and investing in new equipment — a sign that we had no intention of outsourcing,” the company said in an ABC News report.

“Qantas has always said the decision to outsource our ground handling function was based on lawful commercial reasons in response to the unprecedented impact of the COVID crisis,” the company added.

The company now plans to challenge the latest Federal Court ruling before the High Court, saying that it had “three clear reasons to outsource jobs during pandemic disruptions in 2020.”

“These included using specialised ground handling companies that could save Qantas more than $100 million a year to use as part of its recovery from COVID, removing the need for Qantas to spend $80 million over five years on necessary ground handling equipment like tugs and baggage loaders, and allowing resources to be better matched with fluctuating levels of demand,” ABC News reported.

Qantas also argued that the outsourced jobs were being performed by companies that “perform the same function for most other airlines in Australia and most airlines worldwide.”

As to possible compensation and penalties, Qantas revealed that it would be asking the Federal Court to “stay any further hearings” on the said issues “until after the High Court process.”

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