QANTAS: Court says Qantas infringed Fair Work Act
Cast your mind back a few months when Qantas stood down about 2,000 baggage handlers, cleaners and other ground staff, and then outsourced their jobs from another company. Well, it turns out that was a no-no according to the Federal Court’s Justice Michal Lee reported in the AFR.
Justice Lee has ruled that Qantas had infringed protections in the Act that prevent employers from punishing employees for exercising workplace rights. He further cast some doubt over the evidence provided by Qantas witnesses including domestic boss Andrew David and former COO Paul Jones (who has moved to Virgin Australia).
Confidence in the statements of Andrew David was coloured by the Judge’s view that Paul Jones evidence was ‘unconvincing’ concerning his recommendation on outsourcing staff not having a connection with wanting to prevent employees from disrupting services by taking protected industrial action.
The TWU (Transport Workers Union) wants the 2,000 staff affected to be reinstated and paid compensation. That is not assured, since Justice Lee proscribed no remedy, and Qantas is appealing the decision.
As TWU national secretary Michael Kaine pointed out, Qantas is all too willing to appear to jingoism with its ‘Spirit of Australia’ tag line, when it suits them.
The TWU did not have a complete win through, as the court rejected their claims regarding 370 outsourced Jetstar ground workers and 50 bus drivers. It also scoffed at the claim that this case put ‘outsourcing on trial’.
Qantas is a savvy player, so it is a surprise that it has made this misstep. More worrying is the judge’s implication that Qantas witnesses were not to be entirely trusted. This attacks the Qantas brand that is based on trust, nationalism and authenticity. That might be the biggest threat to the reputation of Qantas in the long term.