Ground Handling

TWU Lodges Proposal to Save 2,000 Ground Handling Jobs

By Adam Thorn,

The TWU has submitted a proposal to Qantas to keep ground-handling in-house, in the face of proposals to outsource the service that could cost up to 2,000 jobs.

National secretary Michael Kaine said the bid, compiled with consulting firm EY, is “competitive” and has identified “numerous efficiencies and savings”.

In August, Qantas announced the business was considering outsourcing its remaining ground-handling operations, subject to hearing bids from both private contractors as well as in-house staff. Qantas’ plans would see the airline brand remove operations at the 10 Australian airports where the work is done in-house, which includes Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville.

Before a final decision is made, the company is giving staff the chance to compile an in-house bid to rival those made by external organisations.

“We urge Qantas to award the work to their loyal, dedicated workers who they have invested time and money in training up to the high standards that Qantas passengers expect,” said Kaine. “Qantas workers should be allowed to do Qantas work.

“There is a real risk for Qantas investors and passengers if this work is auctioned off to outside contractors. There is no doubt that standards in service, safety and security will slip.

Kaine went on to criticise the work of rival bidder Swissport, arguing, “Considering the amount of public money which has been pumped into Qantas since the pandemic hit, the community has a right to expect better standards.”

The move comes despite the TWU earlier taking Qantas to a Fair Work Commission tribunal where it argued employees weren’t given enough time to prepare their alternative proposal.

“We will tell the Fair Work Commission today that Qantas management has deliberately set an unfair process and we will ask for workers to have more time and more information to bid for their jobs,” Kaine said at the time.

“Qantas management is using the pandemic to prey on the community. It is being pumped with public money to keep it alive, it has set a bidding war among the states desperate to boost jobs to relocate its headquarters and it is axing and outsourcing jobs.”

Qantas earlier argued in response that “no decision has been made” yet and that “employee representatives will be provided paid time off as well as support from subject matter experts within the business to respond to the proposal and prepare an in-house bid”.

The TWU also recruited the heavyweight lawyer who helped win the infamous Waterfront dispute to challenge Qantas’ proposed job cuts.

The union said it would hire Josh Bornstein because of the apparent similarities between this case and the 1997 Waterfront dispute, which saw seaport operator Patrick Corporation dismiss its unionised workforce.

The decision was later found to be illegal in the Federal Court.

The lawyer was also awarded the “Workplace Relations Partner of the Year 2019” at the Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year Awards and has been ranked as Victoria’s top employment lawyer for employees.

His clients have included broadcaster Ross Stevenson, publisher Louise Adler, the State of Victoria, Essendon Football Club and writers Marieke Hardy and Clementine Ford.

Photo: John Taggart