High court finds Qantas illegally fired and outsourced workers during pandemic

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Australian flag carrier Qantas has lost its court bid to overturn a ruling that it had illegally outsourced jobs during the pandemic.

The Australian High Court ruled that the airline had illegally fired 1,700 ground staff at 10 airports and replaced them with contractors in November 2020.

The Transport Workers’ Union national secretary, Michael Kaine, said that he is proud to stand with the 1,700 sacked workers after three years of “relentless fighting.”

Kaine is now calling on members of the Qantas board to be sacked for their support of previous CEO Alan Joyce.

In July 2021, the federal court ruled Qantas’ outsourcing of workers, which was in part driven to avoid industrial action, breached the Fair Work Act.

In a statement, Qantas said it acknowledges and accepts the High Court’s decision to uphold two prior rulings by the Federal Court regarding the legality of outsourcing the remainder of the airline’s ground handling function in 2020.

“The decision to outsource the remainder of the airline’s ground handling function was made in August 2020, when borders were closed, lockdowns were in place and no COVID vaccine existed. The likelihood of a years’ long crisis led Qantas to restructure its business to improve its ability to survive and ultimately recover,” the airline said.

“As we have said from the beginning, we deeply regret the personal impact the outsourcing decision had on all those affected and we sincerely apologize for that,” Qantas said.

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