Qantas Loses High Court Appeal Over Baggage Handlers

September 13, 2023

Qantas has lost its appeal to Australia’s High Court over the outsourcing of its baggage handling at Australia’s major airports.

The Qantas statement said:

“Qantas 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 Federal Court originally found that while there were valid and lawful commercial reasons for the outsourcing, it could not rule out that Qantas also had an unlawful reason – namely, avoiding future industrial action. The High Court has now effectively upheld this interpretation.

“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.

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

“A prior decision by the Federal Court has ruled out reinstatement of workers but it will now consider penalties for the breach and compensation for relevant employees which will factor in redundancy payments already made by Qantas.”

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The Australian Services Union said;

“The Australian Services Union welcomes today’s unanimous decision by the High Court which has come down decisively on the side of Qantas workers, marking a major win for labour rights.

“This landmark decision to deny an appeal by Qantas against previous rulings by the Federal Court makes it categorically clear that the airline took unlawful action under the Fair Work Act in November 2020 when it outsourced more than 1600 ground-handling staff.

“Today’s unanimous decision by the High Court is a win for workers against a company that has a well-known history of trampling over workers’ rights and exploiting loopholes in the laws that are meant to protect workers,” said ASU Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske.

“While we wholeheartedly embrace this ruling as a victory for all Qantas Group workers and their right to stand together, it’s vital that the Federal Government expedite action to close those loops that allow for exploitation in our industrial relations system.

“These weaknesses should never be exploited to undermine the hard-earned rights of Australian workers to secure, well-paid jobs.”

“Ms Gaske said the High Court’s decision was another nail in the coffin for the manner of business undertaken by Qantas under previous management, in which profits took precedence over people – staff and customers.

“Qantas has been in the news for all the wrong reasons and new management has a serious task ahead of it to rebuild the trust of workers and the travelling public,” she said.

“Looking ahead, the ASU will collaborate with new management to put an end to years of outsourcing and relentless cost-cutting.

“While the ASU was pleased to have secured a commitment from Qantas that no ASU-covered jobs will be outsourced, more needs to be done to build and maintain a strong local workforce of highly skilled customer service professionals who enjoy fair pay and solid job security.

“It’s time for a fresh start, a renewed commitment to workers’ dignity and rights in our nation.”