Qantas loses High Court appeal on outsourcing of 1,700 jobs

'We deeply regret the personal impact the outsourcing decision had... and sincerely apologise for that'

Qantas loses High Court appeal on outsourcing of 1,700 jobs

Australian flag carrier Qantas has lost its appeal at the High Court over its outsourcing of 1,700 jobs in 2020.

The High Court upheld on Wednesday the Federal Court's decisions that found it unlawful for Qantas to outsource baggage handlers, cleaners, and ground staff during the height of the pandemic.

The outsourcing of employees took place in late 2020 despite Qantas laying off thousands of other staff at 10 Australian airports because of COVID-19.

"A person who takes adverse action against another person for a substantial and operative reason of preventing the exercise of a workplace right by the other person contravenes [section 340(1)(b) of the Fair Work Act 2009], regardless of whether that other person has the relevant workplace right at the time the adverse action is taken," the court said in its decision.

Qantas 'sincerely' apologises

In a statement, Qantas said it acknowledges and accepts the High Court's decision.

According to Qantas, the decision to outsource its ground handling function was due to the "likelihood of a years' long crisis" that prompted the organisation restructure its business and improve its ability to 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 organisation said in the statement.

Board shake-up needed

Meanwhile, the Transport Workers' Union (TWU) called on the entire Qantas board to be replaced by new directors, who will include a worker representative.

"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," said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine in a statement.

The union also asked the board to strip former CEO Alan Joyce of his bonuses after abruptly resigned early this month, expediting the succession of Vanessa Hudson as the airline's newest CEO.

"All eyes will be on Vanessa Hudson as she responds to this verdict. Illegally sacked workers are owed an apology and an end to Qantas' attempts to delay paying compensation and penalties," Kaine said.

"Hudson must reverse the destructive business model at Qantas that has exploited or attempted to manufacture loopholes to axe and outsource essential workers to 38 different entities. These actions have destroyed the airline and its reputation."

Josh Bornstein, lawyer for the TWU, declared that the case "isn't over."

"Our legal team will now ask the Federal Court to hear claims for compensation for all adversely impacted workers and then seek a substantial penalty against Qantas," Bornstein said in a statement.

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