Union slams Qantas chairman’s retirement pledge as attempt to exit in ‘dignity’

Qantas plane
Seth Jaworski / Shutterstock.com

Australian flag-carrier Qantas has announced that Chairman Richard Goyder will retire in 2024 but the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has slammed the move as an attempt to leave in “dignity”.  

One October 11, 2023, Qantas confirmed in a statement plans for a board renewal in “recognition of the reputational issues facing the Group and to support restoration of trust in the company”. 

The statement said that Goyder will retire prior to the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in late 2024. 

The speed and the management of the retirement caused consternation at the TWU which called for the retirement to be expediated.  

“This announcement is an attempt by Goyder to leave in a dignified manner with another year’s pay in his pocket, after presiding over the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian history,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.  

In September 2023, former Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, quit the airline with an immediate effect due to a series of stories that reflected badly on the airline.  

“Joyce did very little right in his tenure at Qantas, but the one thing he did do was take an early exit and Goyder should follow him,” Kaine added. 

In its latest announcement Qantas reaffirmed non-executive director Michael L’Estrange will retire at this year’s AGM on November 3, 2023.  

Board members Jacqueline Hey and Maxine Brenner will also retire at the Qantas half-year results in February 2024.  

As planned, three new directors will offer themselves for election at this year’s AGM (Doug Parker, Dr Heather Smith, and CEO and managing director Vanessa Hudson) as well as two existing directors (Todd Sampson and Belinda Hutchinson). 

“As a Board, we acknowledge the significant reputational and customer service issues facing the Group and recognize that accountability is required to restore trust. Qantas has gone through an incredibly difficult period since our operation was grounded during the pandemic. The recovery has not been easy, and mistakes were made. We again apologize for those times where we got it wrong,” Goyder said.  

He added: “I have always sought to act in the best interests of Qantas. Measured and orderly succession at Board level will support the important work underway led by Vanessa and her new management team. Fundamentally, the Group is in a very strong position to overcome its current challenges and deliver for all its stakeholders in the years ahead.” 

In response to the board announcement the TWU’s Kaine said: “This isn’t genuine board renewal this is just shuffling the deckchairs.” 

Qantas has faced fierce scrutiny after it lost a legal battle with the TWU over the sacking of thousands of ground staff in 2020 and is also being sued separately by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for the airline’s alleged advertisement and sale of tickets for flights it had already canceled.   

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) also recently claimed that the chairman was “tone-deaf” after accepting a pay-rise while employees continued to have wages frozen.    

On September 22, 2023, the situation had become so unstable for the airline that the CEO was forced to make a public apology on camera in which she said sorry to its customers after a “humbling period” in the airline’s history.   

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