Statement from ACTU President Michele O'Neil on Qantas

Statement from ACTU President Michele O'Neil on Qantas

The decision from Qantas today to stand down 20,000 of its employees is a devastating blow to these workers who keep Australian aviation functioning, at a time when they need their company and the Government to support them.

It is not acceptable that one day after the airline industry was provided with a $715million dollar taxpayer funded bailout package, Qantas has told its workforce that protecting their pay and their jobs is not central to its plans.

In every other country where taxpayer money is being used to assist industries we are seeing government, business and working people, through their unions, sitting at the same table to work out how best to protect jobs and business.

In this case $715 million has been allocated and the companies appear to have been given free reign on how they use taxpayer money.

Qantas has long claimed to be the “Spirit of Australia”. Now we are calling on Qantas to show it can be true to those words by ensuring its workforce have as much work as possible, receive paid leave and that their workers are supported during this time.

For Qantas to ask workers to donate their leave entitlements in order to pay their own way through the crisis without giving reassurances about job security and outlining how the company will support vulnerable members of its workforce is not an acceptable outcome.

Australian workers are more than prepared to do their bit to get through this crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. This must happen in a cooperative way.

So far, they’ve been shut out of discussions about the best way to deal with it and then told they must shoulder the burden alone to keep Qantas afloat

This bailout is unlikely to be the last as the COVID-19 pandemic batters the Australian economy. We support government providing stimulus and financial support to industry in order to protect local jobs.

Tax payers’ money should have strings attached to ensure that it is being used in the interests of the community not just executives. The very first is to include the impacted workers and their unions in discussions. Decisions impacting on workers need to be negotiated and agreed not imposed.

Workers need a seat at the table when these corporate bailouts are being designed. The protection of workers and their families has to be first on the list of priorities, not taking a back seat to the interests of executives.

The government needs to remember that its first job is to put the interest of ordinary Australians first.