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Outcry over Qantas asking staff to work for nothing

December 10, 2018 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

A Qantas request for staff to work over the busy December-January holiday period on a voluntary basis has provoked union and social media outrage, with the Australian Services Union branding it “a shocking display of corporate greed from a company with record profit that paid its CEO $25 million last year”.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) posted an email from Qantas head office, headed “Christmas peak SIT (Sydney International) volunteer initiative 2018”.

“We’re trialling a new volunteer program for our Campus (Mascot) based people who want to lend a hand to the frontline,” the email said.

“We require volunteers to assist the self-service check in and auto bag drop area, bussing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk.

“The roles allocated to volunteers will depend on their preferences, skill set and security requirements.”

The Australian newspaper has reported that Qantas confirmed the authenticity of the email.

One section of the email says: “If a shift takes place within your normal/rostered working hours, then you will be paid. If you volunteer outside of normal/rostered working hours, then the shift will be voluntary and unpaid.”

Twitter comments went ballistic.

“This Christmas @Qantas is asking workers to volunteer to work for free,” the ASU said.

Other comments on Twitter:

  • “The only reason a staff member would volunteer to be away from their family at work as an unpaid volunteer is because they’re scared of being fired if they don’t. This is disgraceful – slave labour.”
  • “Why don’t @Qantas trial something innovative and employ workers to do the job?”
  • “So they want staff to work for free during the airline’s most profitable time.   This is so gobsmacking I can’t even think of something snarky to say.”
  • “Yeah nah I reckon the most appropriate Christmas gift to Alan Joyce right about now would be an all-out strike!”
  • “How many hours have the CEO and directors volunteered for?”
  • “I have Christmas Qantas tickets! I don’t want to support this.”

And so on. A Qantas spokesman told The Australian the email was not about cutting costs but about “spreading a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period”.

The spokesman said the holiday period initiative was not new, and it was typically executives who volunteered, to gain the chance to spend more time on the front line.

ASU NSW branch secretary Natalie Lang told the paper Qantas was “lining its own pockets and asking staff to help them do that for free”.

She said the ASU was urging Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce to withdraw the request and to ensure all staff working for Qantas over the Christmas period were paid.

Written by Peter Needham

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