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ACTU takes legal action against Qantas over bonuses

June 25, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) was reported yesterday to be launching legal action against Qantas over the airline’s decision to refuse a AUD 2000 bonus to workers who didn’t sign on to Qantas-approved enterprise agreements.

Union resentment over the issue has been simmering since last August when, in the wake of the airline’s record full-year profit, three big unions representing the airline’s workers expressed outrage at conditions attached to bonuses. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) called an urgent meeting over the issue and the grievance has been bubbling away ever since.

According to the Australian Financial Review, ACTU claims the Qantas AUD 67 million bonus scheme discriminates against workers covered by collective agreements, while delivering the cash immediately to managers.

The ACTU challenge was due to be filed with the Fair Work Commission yesterday afternoon.

The stage was set last year when, after the Qantas bumper profit, unions were horrified to read the small print attached to bonuses for their members.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) told its members at the time: “Qantas management are now holding the bonuses … to ransom by saying they cannot be accessed by ASU EBA [Enterprise Bargaining Agreement] covered staff until after a new EBA is agreed post 30 June 2020 (i.e. when the existing agreement expires).

“But wait there is more – Qantas management are also saying that you only get the bonus if you do not take any industrial action to get that new EBA in 2020!

“So if you thought you would be getting a AUD 2000 bonus for full timers and a AUD 1500 for part timers – it ain’t happening now – if you want it you are bound to stay at Qantas for 2-3 more years.”

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said at the time: “This is a joke. Qantas is trying to appear to be sharing its bumper profits with its workforce but that is far from the facts. In Qantas Catering, 60% of staff are employed through labour hire firms and they so won’t get the bonus at all, despite being with the company for up to 12 years.

“Qantas short-haul cabin crew won’t get paid the bonus until 2020 and Qantas long-hour cabin crew until 2021, when their agreements expire. In Qantas Ground Services almost all employees are on forced part-time hours, and struggle to support their families. This is an industry ripping off workers while pocketing the profits.”

The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), which represents hundreds of Qantas engineers, issued a statement last August headed: QANTAS SINKS TO NEW LOW

“We were initially surprised that the Qantas Executives, who will receive their multi-million-dollar bonuses immediately, could share so little after the record profit,” ALAEA said.

“After some reflection we realised that this contemptuous offering, which is little more than a bribe to accept further substandard Enterprise Agreements, was a declaration of war on 30,000 Qantas Group employees.”

According to its current application to the Fair Work Commission, as related by the AFR, the ACTU alleges Qantas is “deliberately” treating employees covered by collective agreements less favourably than those who are not.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce, speaking at the airline group’s AGM last year, said conditions attached to the bonus scheme were no different to those which had applied to the previous three bonuses the airline had offered.

Written by Peter Needham

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