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High court rules Qantas illegally sacked 1,700 workers during pandemic

Qantas aircraft

High court rules Qantas illegally sacked 1,700 workers during pandemic

Qantas has lost its attempt to overturn a ruling that found it guilty of illegally outsourcing 1,700 jobs during the pandemic.

The High Court of Australia ruled that Qantas unlawfully terminated employees at ten airports in November 2020.

The airlines violated Australia’s Fair Work Act, designed to safeguard workers’ rights.

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Qantas said: “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.

However, the firm maintained it was a necessary financial decision amid the Covid-19 challenges. 

During this period, the airline terminated the roles of baggage handlers and cleaners at airports across Australia as borders remained closed, and business plummeted.

The High Court recognized that Qantas may have had “sound commercial reasons” for its actions.

However, it had deprived its workers of their rights to engage in protected industrial action and bargaining.

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“David and Goliath” victory

Workers and unionists hailed this ruling as a “huge win,” describing it as a “David and Goliath” victory. 

The Transport Workers’ Union said “the entire Qantas board must be replaced by new directors including a worker representative”.

Michael Kaine, the union’s national secretary, labelled Qantas’s actions as “the largest sacking found to be illegal” in Australian history.

He promised that workers would seek compensation through legal channels.

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Qantas has faced public backlash in recent times, after reporting record profits amid a series of controversies related to its conduct during the pandemic. 

These include allegations of selling tickets for thousands of flights that had already been canceled.

The airline has also been accused of supporting the government’s decision to block the expansion of Qatar Airways flights to and from Australia.

It was a move criticized for potentially stifling competition and inflating fares.

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