Qantas illegally sacked workers during pandemic, court rules

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The High Court of Australia on Wednesday ruled that the country’s flag carrier airline, Qantas, broke the law by firing 1,700 ground staff and replacing them with contractors early during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to media reports, the court said that the company had commercial reasons for its actions at the time but acted in a breach of industrial law because it “sought to thwart” the unionized employees’ rights to engage in industrial action and collective bargaining.

“These workers have been put through hell. Their families have been put through hell, their lives have been dislocated, some of them forever,” Michael Kaine, secretary of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which brought the lawsuit, told journalists in the light of the ruling.

Qantas said in a statement that it accepted the High Court’s decision, adding the Federal Court had already ruled out forcing the company to reinstate the workers.

“As we have said from the beginning, we deeply regret the personal impact the outsourcing decision had on all those affected, and we sincerely apologize for that,” the company stated.

The national carrier has also been accused of selling 8,000 tickets in mid-2022 for flights that had already been canceled.

The intense criticism prompted Qantas’ former chief executive, Alan Joyce, to retire two months ahead of schedule last week.

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