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How Qantas used JobKeeper to underpay its staff millions

  • September 25 2020
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How Qantas used JobKeeper to underpay its staff millions

By Cameron Micallef
September 25 2020

Qantas has been ordered to pay back millions to underpaid workers after the Federal Court ruled that it did not pay its staff all the money they were owed in overtime and penalty rates.

How Qantas used JobKeeper to underpay its staff millions

How Qantas used JobKeeper to underpay its staff millions

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  • September 25 2020
  • Share

Qantas has been ordered to pay back millions to underpaid workers after the Federal Court ruled that it did not pay its staff all the money they were owed in overtime and penalty rates.

How Qantas used JobKeeper to underpay its staff millions

The national airline faced allegations from three unions who claimed employees were shortchanged over penalty rates earned on the Easter long weekend.

Qantas minimised the amount paid to employees by counting penalties paid on a later payday towards the $1,500 JobKeeper payment for that later fortnight.

Since the wage subsidy was introduced, Qantas had implemented the subsidy in such a way that overtime wasn’t paid until the following fortnightly pay cycle. 

This arrangement reduced the pay of airline staff, especially those who would work a long weekend.

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The unions argued a worker might have $2,500 in outstanding wages to be paid the following fortnight, and receive $1,500 JobKeeper payment for the current fortnight, the unions told the court. 

However, the worker who was stood down for the second fortnight still needs to be paid the full $2,500 as well as the second JobKeeper payment, meaning they are entitled to $4,000 in pay.

Instead, Qantas would offset the $2,500 with the $1,500 subsidy. This means the worker would be paid the full JobKeeper payment but only $1,000 on the money outstanding for the fortnight previous.

Justice Geoffrey Flick ruled that only money that is earned for work in a particular JobKeeper fortnight and paid in the same fortnight can be counted towards the minimum payment guarantee. 

The ACTU president Michele O’Neil said Qantas was cynically using this pandemic as an excuse to attack their own workforce.

"This issue should have been resolved by Qantas months ago. The fact that Qantas workers and their unions had to take this case during this crisis to have the issue resolved is staggering, even by Qantas’ standards."

“Airline workers have stood together during this crisis and demonstrated the power of working people standing up and demanding fair treatment, and the entire union movement stands with them.”

How Qantas used JobKeeper to underpay its staff millions
How Qantas used JobKeeper to underpay its staff millions
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About the author

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Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

About the author

Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

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