A transport union is taking legal action against Qantas in a bid to overturn the airline’s plan to outsource 2000 workers, in what’s being billed as a test case.
Qantas announced plans last month to outsource the positions to cut costs after rejecting an in-house staff bid to save the jobs.
The positions are at 10 airports around the country and impact ground operations workers including ground crew, aircraft cleaners and baggage handlers.
But law firm Maurice Blackburn on Wednesday filed a test case for the Transport Workers Union in the Federal Court against Qantas, seeking to overturn the outsourcing of jobs.
Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein said the airline’s outsourcing plan was unlawful under the Fair Work Act.
He added that the TWU would seek “substantial” financial penalties against Qantas, as well as potentially millions of dollars in compensation for any workers who were sacked and unable to find further employment.
“This legal challenge will put outsourcing on trial,” Mr Bornstein said.
“If Qantas can replace thousands of its employees with cheaper, insecure labour hire employees then this can happen to any other employee in any Australian workplace.”
Mr Bornstein also said the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the plight of insecure labour hire and outsourced workers.
“They aren’t paid properly, they work in unsafe conditions and they are forced to scrounge a living working at multiple jobs,” he said.
However a Qantas spokesman rejected the claim that outsourcing the work was unlawful.
“We recognise that this is a difficult decision which impacts a lot of our people,” he said in a statement to AAP.
“But outsourcing this work to specialist ground handlers who already do this work for us in other cities across the country is not unlawful.”
Qantas Domestic and International chief Andrew David said last month the virus had “turned aviation upside down”.
“Airlines around the world are having to make dramatic decisions in order to survive and the damage will take years to repair,” Mr David said.
Qantas employees affected by the outsourcing decision will receive redundancy entitlements and be helped to find new jobs, the airline has promised.
The decision means job losses across the group as a result of the pandemic and associated border closures total around 8500 of its 29,000 pre-COVID workforce.
Mr Bornstein said papers were filed in the Federal Court and served on the airline’s lawyers on Wednesday.
Qantas stocks had dropped four cents, or 0.65 per cent, to $5.36 as at 1348 AEDT.