Unions have accused the Abbott government of playing a political game with the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Qantas workers.
The government has announced it wants to repeal the section of the Qantas Sale Act that governs foreign ownership, paving the way for majority international ownership of the airline’s domestic arm.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver says Prime Minister Tony Abbott has given the green light to send thousands of jobs offshore.
“We are concerned that the government now is engaging in some kind of political game,” Mr Oliver told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.
“If this is the case, he needs to understand that he’s playing with the livelihood of tens of thousands of Australian workers.”
Mr Oliver said the ACTU was astounded the government had not provided Qantas with a debt guarantee.
“We are amazed that Tony Abbott did not provide the support that the company was after.”
Mr Oliver stressed the strategic importance of keeping the national carrier Australian in terms of skills, vital infrastructure and support for rural and regional communities.
He said the decision could lead to the loss of another Australian icon.
“With the announcement last night that the government will be amending the Qantas Sale Act, we could very well see the airline being broken up into smaller components.”
Labor and the Greens are opposed to amending the act, arguing that Australian jobs will be exported overseas.
ACTU representatives will meet Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and senior executives on Wednesday seeking details on the 5000 jobs the airline plans to cut and a commitment they will not be sent overseas.
Discussions on the implications of the plan to repeal part of the act will also be on the agenda, Mr Oliver said.
“Irrespective of what the government is going to do with making amendments to the Qantas Sale Act, we want commitments that they will not be off-shoring their vital operations,” he said.
Mr Oliver said the ACTU would be asking the national carrier to engage in full and proper consultations and unions were still seeking answers from last week’s meeting about the 5000 job cuts.
“We want to know where they’re coming from, when they are going to be acted on, how did they came up with that figure of 5000?”