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‘The outsourcing has devastated families’: Transport Workers Union survey reveals toll on axed Qantas ground crew

The Transport Workers Union is renewing calls for Qantas management to resign after releasing the findings of a new survey of 1,100 outsourced ground crew.

The Transport Workers Union is renewing calls for the Qantas management team to “do the right thing by their workers, by their passengers and by the people of Australia that propped them up during the pandemic” and resign.

It comes after a new union survey of 1,100 outsourced ground crew revealed 47 per cent are now unemployed or underemployed.

According to the TWU survey one in 10 have had to move in with family or friends, while a quarter have suffered a relationship breakdown from the stress.

A third say they have developed a mental health condition since the outsourcing, while one in ten said they have experienced suicidal thoughts, with many also reporting feelings of worthlessness.

The Transport Workers Union is renewing calls for Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and the airline's entire management team to resign in the wake of a new survey of outsourced ground crew. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw.

The Transport Workers Union is renewing calls for Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and the airline’s entire management team to resign in the wake of a new survey of outsourced ground crew. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw.

“The outsourcing has devastated families,” TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said.

“Many have struggled to put a roof over their head, marriages have broken down, and tragically, some have seriously considered whether life is worth living.”

The Federal Court in July 2021 ruled the national carrier breached the Fair Work Act by outsourcing about 2,000 ground crew jobs to third party contractors in the middle of the pandemic  – with Swissport taking on the majority of the work.

Qantas lost its appeal against the court’s decision at the beginning of last month and now plans to take the case to the High Court. If it loses again, the airline will be required to pay a mammoth compensation bill.

Amid the legal furore, the airline is struggling to meet staffing shortages and pleading with office workers to assist overworked ground handlers- despite hundreds with ten years or more experience sitting at home desperate for work.

“(Qantas CEO Alan) Joyce and the management team must admit that they got it wrong, must admit that these issues are a direct result of their illegal callous decision,” Nick McIntosh, TWU National Assistant Secretary, said.

“They must do the right thing by their workers, by their passengers and by the people of Australia that propped them up during the pandemic and resign.”

Former ground crew worker Don Dixon said the chaos being experienced by passengers is the result of “corporate nonsense.”

“Passengers can’t get their bags, they can’t get on flights, flight delays, and we have all this experience sitting at home,” he told reporters at Sydney Airport on Tuesday.

“Mr Joyce and your executives, you made a mistake, you rolled the dice and you lost. The spirit of Australia is where you make a mistake, you put your hand up and you own it.”

Qantas has responded to the survey results, telling SkyNews.com.au that management had to make a number of difficult decisions for the airline to survive.

“Outsourcing the remaining ground handling that was done inhouse was one of them,” a Qantas spokesperson said. 

“The decision wasn’t a reflection on our former employees but rather a reflection of economies of scale and the urgent need we had because of COVID to unlock savings.

“Affected employees were provided a redundancy package and support to transition to new jobs outside the business.

“The union has pointed to Qantas’ decision in 2020 to outsource the rest of our in-house ground handing as a key reason the restart has been challenging. It’s not.

“We had completed the outsourcing before Easter 2021 when domestic travel was back at almost 100 per cent, and we didn’t have the issues we had at Easter this year. The differences were COVID absenteeism and a competitive labour market.”

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