A transport union is taking legal action against Qantas to try to overturn the airline’s plan to outsource more than 2000 workers, in what’s being billed as a test case.
Qantas announced plans to outsource the positions to cut costs in November, after rejecting an in-house staff bid to save the jobs.
The positions are at 10 airports across Australia and include ground operations workers, particularly ground crew, aircraft cleaners and baggage handlers.
But law firm Maurice Blackburn will file a test case for the Transport Workers Union against Qantas on Wednesday, arguing its outsourcing plan is unlawful under the Fair Work Act.
“This legal challenge will put outsourcing on trial,” Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein said.
“If Qantas can replace thousands of its employees with cheaper, insecure labour hire employees then this can happen to any other employee in any Australian workplace.”
Mr Bornstein also said the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted the plight of insecure labour hire and outsourced workers.
“They aren’t paid properly, they work in unsafe conditions and they are forced to scrounge a living working at multiple jobs,” he said.
A Qantas spokesman rejected the claim that outsourcing the work was unlawful.
“We recognise that this is a difficult decision, which impacts a lot of our people,” he said.
“But outsourcing this work to specialist ground handlers who already do this work for us in other cities across the country is not unlawful.”
In November, Qantas Domestic and International chief Andrew David said the virus had “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,” Mr David said.
Qantas employees affected by the outsourcing decision will receive redundancy entitlements and be helped to find new jobs, the airline has promised.
The decision means job losses across the group as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and associated border closures total about 8500 of its 29,000 pre-COVID workforce.