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Qantas fails to delay push to reinstate 2000 sacked workers

Qantas has failed to delay court proceedings that could force it to reinstate some of the 2000 ground handlers it sacked last year after a judge ruled that it was illegal to outsource those jobs to third-party providers.

The Federal Court ruled in July that the airline acted illegally when it laid off the baggage handlers, aircraft towing crews, cleaners and other ground workers in November 2020 because it was partly motivated by a desire to avoid future industrial disputes with the highly unionised workforce.

The TWU is pushing for 2000 sacked workers to get their jobs back.

The TWU is pushing for 2000 sacked workers to get their jobs back. Credit:Paul Rovere

The Transport Workers Union (TWU), which brought the claim to court, intended to push for its sacked workers to be given their jobs back or compensated in upcoming remediation.

But Qantas applied for proceedings to be delayed until the court hears its appeal to the court’s original decision – scheduled in February next year – in part to avoid unnecessary legal costs.

On Thursday, Justice Nye Perram ruled against Qantas’ application, saying that any delay risked making it impossible for the sacked employees to return to work.

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Justice Perram accepted Qantas would also suffer “irremediable prejudice” if its appeal is ultimately successful because it will have spent “substantial funds” and executive resources preparing for the case.

“At the forefront of my consideration is my impression that the risk of prejudice to the TWU outweighs the risk of
prejudice faced by Qantas,” he said in his judgement.

Qantas has maintained that it was only motivated by lawful commercial reasons when it decided to outsource the 2000 jobs, which would save it $100 million a year in the middle of the financially devastating COVID-19 pandemic. The airline has laid-off 8500 employees, or close to a third of its workforce, during the crisis.

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