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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - Qantas plans to cut another 2400 jobs by outsourcing all of its ground handling work at Australian airports in a further blow to a workforce already hit with 6000 redundancies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline said it could save $100 million a year by shifting baggage handling, aircraft cleaning, and ground support work to a third-party aviation service provider such as Dnata or Swissport at 11 airports.

Qantas Domestic chief executive Andrew David said the decision, which was blasted by Labor senator Tony Sheldon as "corporate bastardry", was terrible but necessary in light of the COVID-19 crisis, which saw the airline hand down a $1.9 billion annual loss last week.

"It is a sad reality of what COVID-19 has done to our industry," 

Mr. David said.

Qantas and its budget arm Jetstar are flying about 20 per cent of their pre-pandemic domestic capacity and have grounded international flights until the middle of next year. The fresh round of redundancies will bring the job losses at Qantas since April to 8500, close to a third of its pre-pandemic workforce of 29,000. About 20,000 remain stood down from work.

Qantas already outsources groundwork at 55 smaller airports around the country, and Tuesday's announcement affects 2000 Qantas workers at Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Townsville airports.

A further 370 Jetstar jobs will go at Adelaide, Avalon, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney airports. Fifty Qantas bus drivers at Sydney Airport are also set to lose their jobs.

Mr. David said third-party operators could do the same work at a 40 percent lower cost because they serviced multiple airlines at the one airport. Outsourcing the work would also avoid $100 million in capital spending on things such as ground handling equipment over the next five years.

"In this financial year we’re going to lose $10 billion [in revenue due to COVID-19]," he said. "This is one way of addressing the situation we’re in."

Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kain said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce should resign if his only plan for the airline was to sack workers and adopt a budget airline business model.

"This mass sacking will destroy standards built up over decades. It will introduce a rip-off Ryanair model where neither workers nor passengers are protected," 

he said.

Mr. Kaine said Qantas had misused public money by taking millions of dollars through the JobKeeper program with the purpose of keeping people employed only to then sack them.

Qantas received $515 million in government support in the first half of the year, including $267 million from JobKeeper and $248 million from aviation-specific support schemes. The airline received a $15 million net benefit to its bottom line from the support.

Virgin Australia does its own ground handling at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide airports and outsources the work at all other airports.

Airlines around the world have been shedding staff in light of how the pandemic has brought air travel almost to a standstill. Virgin Australia, which went bankrupt in April, and Air New Zealand have also shrunk by about a third since April.

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