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Unions, Qantas continue fight in the High Court over underpayment through JobKeeper subsidy

  • June 28 2021
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Unions, Qantas continue fight in the High Court over underpayment through JobKeeper subsidy

By Cameron Micallef
June 28 2021

The unions have taken their fight with Qantas to the High Court as they look to recoup underpayments through the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

Unions, Qantas continue fight in the High Court over underpayment through JobKeeper subsidy

Unions, Qantas continue fight in the High Court over underpayment through JobKeeper subsidy

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  • June 28 2021
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The unions have taken their fight with Qantas to the High Court as they look to recoup underpayments through the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

Unions, Qantas continue fight in the High Court over underpayment through JobKeeper subsidy

The unions allege that Qantas ‘ripped off’ workers that would usually be paid public holiday rates and overtime throughout the COVID-19 period by manipulating rosters and paying workers no more than the basic JobKeeper wage subsidy.

A hearing will be held today to determine if unions will be granted leave to appeal to the High Court on behalf of Qantas workers who were ripped off overtime and penalty rates when the airline abused the JobKeeper scheme.

Unions have taken the case to the High Court after Qantas successfully appealed a decision which ordered the airline to pay workers back thousands of dollars in stolen entitlements.

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However, on appeal in the Federal Court, the airline won two-to-one.

Late Friday, it was revealed the High Court has turned down an application by Qantas workers and their unions to hear an appeal over the airline’s abuse of the JobKeeper wage subsidy to pocket workers’ entitlements.

Qantas Group issued a statement on Friday, saying the High Court decision confirmed their position.

“The courts have found we administered JobKeeper as the government intended, and we always made JobKeeper payments according to advice from the Australian Taxation Office,” the statement said.

“Every Qantas and Jetstar employee, whether they were working or stood down, was paid at least $1,500 per fortnight in line with the requirements of the first stage of JobKeeper, and then the reduced amounts specified by the government.”

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the High Court’s refusal to hear the case is disappointing.

The unions allege that after Qantas lost the original court case, the airline, along with the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, lobbied the Morrison government to change the JobKeeper rules to allow the rip-off of workers’ wages.

Mr Kaine said workers have suffered disproportionately under callous Qantas management.

“Qantas took advantage of the pandemic to steal from the pockets of aviation workers who were under enormous financial pressure and uncertainty over their jobs,” he said.

Mr Kaine said the airline has sought to ‘kick workers’ at every turn, axing thousands of jobs and downplaying the severity of the virus, while using it to ‘pilfer wages’.

“What they’re owed means a great deal to these workers but pales in comparison to the $2 billion of taxpayer funding paid to the airline whose executives earned millions while workers were refused their sick leave and penalty rates.”

ASU assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske said Qantas workers deserve to be compensated for time away from their families.

“This scheme relied on working staff to the bone one week and delaying their legal overtime and penalty payments to the following week, while the staff member was rostered off.

“In a nutshell, it meant Qantas avoided paying thousands in overtime payments to workers. This was a tricky and illegal manipulation of JobKeeper to siphon off funds away from workers and back into the company bottom line – it is thoroughly unethical and illegal,” Ms Gaske said.

However, the unions and Qantas remain in court over plans to outsource workers.

A Federal Court ruling is pending on the outsourcing of 2,000 Qantas ground workers. 

“A number of serious safety breaches have been reported in Qantas’ supply chain since the groundwork was outsourced, including a damaged plane which last week took off with passengers on board after being hit by a baggage vehicle,” the TWU said.

Unions, Qantas continue fight in the High Court over underpayment through JobKeeper subsidy
Unions, Qantas continue fight in the High Court over underpayment through JobKeeper subsidy
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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

author image
Cameron Micallef

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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