High Court rules Qantas illegally outsourced 1,700 jobs

A Qantas A350 parked at Sydney Airport
Photo: Airbus

Qantas has been dealt a further body blow today, with the Australian High Court upholding a decision against them which ruled the airline illegally outsourced 1700 ground handling positions.

High Court finds Qantas actions unlawful

Today’s decision by the High Court was unanimous in upholding a previous Federal Court decision which had found Qantas actions in laying off its own ground handling staff and outsourcing the positions to have been unlawful.

The effect of the outsourcing decision was that ground handling services then being performed by employees of Qantas and Qantas Ground Services Pty Ltd many of whom were members of the Transport Workers Union of Australia would instead be performed by staff of third-party suppliers.

Previous Federal Court ruling

The full Federal Court finding in July 2021 was that Qantas had effectively contravened the Fair Work Act 2009 through these actions.

Qantas subsequently challenged the Federal Court decision with an appeal to the High Court. Today’s decision now opens the airline to significant compensation claims by affected workers.

Today’s unanimous finding by the Australian High Court comes as the latest in a string of body blows which the Qantas Group has faced over recent weeks.


Qantas Group Head Office building in Mascot, Sydney.
Kgbo, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Opening the door for compensation

Whilst the focus has largely been on outgoing CEO Alan Joyce, who brought forward his departure after a week which saw him face intense questioning in a Senate enquiry; attention is slowly being drawn to the inaction of the Qantas Board in addressing serious concerns.

News source The Guardian quoted Transport Workers’ Union national secretary, Michael Kaine as saying “Qantas workers have made history today,”

“It has been three years and 20 days since Alan Joyce first announced the decision to outsource these workers, and they have not stopped fighting for a moment to ensure justice was served. The final act of this Board should be to strip Alan Joyce of his bonuses and follow him out the door.”

“The Joyce regime has been toppled, but the airline cannot achieve the reset necessary for its survival under the same Board that resided over the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian corporate history. Richard Goyder cannot make it through another day as chair.”

Today’s High Court ruling marks the end of the road as far as legal remedies for Qantas to challenge the findings of unlawful behaviour. With the findings in their favour, it now opens the door for mass compensation claims.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
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