Calls for Qantas to ‘pay back’ millions

Following the announcement Qantas will shed a further 2500 jobs from its groundhandling operations sector, the Transport Workers Union has called on the Federal Government to step in and repeal millions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded subsidies received by the airline.

On Tuesday, Qantas announced they would outsource ground handling in a cost cutting measure that will save the airline almost $100 million.

Now, the TWU's National Secretary Michael Kaine is calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to step in and recall the payments made to the airline, given many of the latest jobs to go have been on hold for months with support from the Federal Government's JobKeeper fund.

"What (Prime Minister) Scott Morrison should do is ask them to pay that money back and take an equity stake and take control of this airline and get it back on an equal footing," TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said.

"Qantas has taken millions in JobKeeper wage subsidies, more than any other company, with the express intent of keeping people employed. But now Alan Joyce wants to destroy thousands more livelihoods. This is callous abuse of public money.

"If Alan Joyce's only plan is two wield the axe on thousands of loyal staff, he should resign. "This is not shrewd management, it is economic violence." 

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said more tough decisions will be made as the aviation industry continues to weather the COVID-19 storm. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said more tough decisions will be made as the aviation industry continues to weather the COVID-19 storm. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Since Tuesday's announcement of further job cuts, Mr Kaine has written to Mr Morrison about the airline's latest employment decision.

"If the billions of dollars spent on JobKeeper was to maintain a connection between employers and workers then what Qantas is doing is abusing this system," Mr Kaine wrote in the letter seen by news.com.au.

"It has used public money to subsidise their wages and is now downgrading their jobs … These jobs still exist, Qantas just wants to outsource them to pay workers less.

"This is why we are asking you [Mr Morrison] to demand that Qantas ends its plans to axe and outsource jobs. If it fails to do this, you should ask for the $515 million back in public money used to support the airline."

As part of the airline's $2.7 billion loss announced last week, the Qantas Group received $515 million gross in government support.

A spokesperson for the airline said $267 million was in the form of JobKeeper payments, most of which went to the 20,000 employees stood down by the airline.

It is understood the balance of $267 million was used as a wage subsidy for those still working.

Qantas announced they will axe almost 2500 more jobs as part of their cost-cutting measures. Picture: Christian Gilles
Qantas announced they will axe almost 2500 more jobs as part of their cost-cutting measures. Picture: Christian Gilles

The remainder of the $515 million went to run repatriation flights on behalf of the government, which included more than 100 international services as well as domestic flights. As a result, the net benefit to Qantas from government support was $15 million.

The 10 airports where Qantas proposes to outsource this work are Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville.

Job losses of at least 6000 have already been announced as part of the airline's restructure in response to border closures and more permanent structural changes to the aviation industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest cuts come just 24 hours after the airline axed its international CEO, Tino La Spina, as part of budget cuts to buffer the COVID-19 storm.

News.com.au has contacted the Prime Minister's office for comment.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine says the Federal Government should recall the JobKeeper money paid to Qantas. Picture: Justin Lloyd
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine says the Federal Government should recall the JobKeeper money paid to Qantas. Picture: Justin Lloyd


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