The union representing Qantas workers at Canberra Airport has blasted the company for what it believes is a cynical move to use the current crisis as a way of shifting its workers off its books.
Qantas is planning to cut up to 2,500 more workers at airports across Australia, adding to the 6,000 employees already leaving the airline.
There are about 60 to 70 Qantas employees at Canberra Airport, either as baggage handlers or cleaners. Qantas said there were 40 posts in Canberra "that could be impacted", but said nothing had been confirmed.
Qantas told staff on Tuesday about its plans to outsource ground-handling crew in a move which would save the company $100 million per year as the travel industry remains devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
"The company is spitting in the face of its workers, some of whom have worked for it for 30 years, and it's spitting in the face of the public," Klaus Pinkas, the secretary of the ACT sub-branch of the Transport Workers Union said.
Mr Pinkas said Qantas was the most subisidised company in the current crisis. "Qantas is outsourcing its responsibility to its employees," he said.
Its intention seemed to be to outsource the employment but not to re-employ people as the recovery happened. "That's horrendous," Mr Pinkas said.
Canberra Airport declined to comment about Qantas' decision. There have been widespread cutbacks as passenger numbers have fallen by 99 percent.
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People working for Stephen Byron and the airport company have had their pay cut.
Companies which were setting up operations there have failed to do so. One company told The Canberra Times it had invested $4.7 million and that money was wasted.
Qantas group in June sacked 6,000 workers as part of a three-year plan to slash costs by $15 billion. It raised $1.36 billion from institutional investors in June, and $71.7 million from retail investors in August.
While Qantas and Jetstar have their own ground staff at major airports, the proposal aims to use external specialists who provide the services at other airports.
Qantas would outsource the ground handling work at 10 airports: Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Melbourne, Darwin, Perth, Sydney and Townsville. About 2,000 jobs would be affected by the move.
Jetstar will also outsource ground handling at six airports - Adelaide, Avalon, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney Domestic - impacting about 370 jobs.
A plan to outsource bus services in and around Sydney Airport could also lead to 50 job losses. Qantas employees will have a chance to bid for the work as part of the enterprise bargaining agreement.
Qantas Domestic chief executive Andrew David is keen to negotiate with workers, but said the specialist ground handlers' scale of operations across many airports provided cost advantages.
"The numbers are confronting. We're talking a 40 per cent (cost) difference," he said. Staff at Jetstar will not be able to bid for work, as it has a different industrial relations arrangement.
Jetstar group chief executive Gareth Evans said the outsourcing proposal was not part of Qantas' broader changes announced in June as management was still building a plan.
"This is an evolving and changing plan, but the steps are necessary," he said. Mr David said the group was due to lose $10 billion this financial year, and outsourcing was one way to address the situation.
The Transport Workers Union demanded Qantas boss Alan Joyce stand down over the job cuts, saying: "This is not shrewd management, it is economic violence."
"Qantas has taken millions in JobKeeper wage subsidies, more than any other company, with the express intent of keeping people employed," TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said in a statement.
"But now Alan Joyce wants to destroy thousands more livelihoods. This is callous abuse of public money. The chief executive must resign." Qantas received $515 million in government support, according to a spokesman.
- With AAP