MIAMI – As the pandemic has disrupted financial stability across the aviation industry, airlines are looking left and right for ways to save cash and reduce costs.

These have included flights to nowhere to generate revenue, retiring aircraft, mass layoffs, and now, for Qantas Airways (QF), outsourcing jobs might be its best bet.

Qantas first announced plans to begin outsourcing 2,100 ground crew back in August after subsidiary JetStar (JQ) outsourced its baggage handling roles costing 370 employees. QF already laid off 6,000 employees deemed redundant in June, and now the next step for the airline is another cash saver.

Photo: Mitchul Hope

Unions Fight Back

Needless to say, employees and their respective unions are outraged, some even calling it “Un-Australian.” Workers all across the country would be impacted, including Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane, Darwin, and other locations. Ground crew across the airline have submitted bids for their jobs, hoping their offers are better in the eyes of Qantas management.

Qantas employees also raised concerns regarding the safety of outsourcing jobs so critical to the integrity of each flight. “[Labor hire companies] put more pressure on the staff to get their work done. So naturally things are missed” said an employee. “We all like our jobs; we don’t want to lose our jobs,” baggage handler Kim Meyer said. Current employees are concerned about the lack of training and safety standards could create problems for outside companies.

Michael Kaine, national Secretary of the Transport Workers Union of Australia (TWU) has pointed out several other ways Qantas could save money, and the jobs of the workers he’s representing. He pointed at Swissport, Qantas’ top choice for the outside supplier, describing “chronically fatigued and underpaid workers, safety and security breaches, deliberate understaffing and high injury rates.”

He added, “Considering the amount of public money which has been pumped into Qantas since the pandemic hit, the community has a right to expect better standards.” The government has given 800million dollars to QF, but with no strings attached like salary caps or promises to retain jobs. Kaine says money could be saved by reducing redundancy payments, and not giving raises.

Photo: Luca Flores

Qantas Has Yet to Come to a Decision

Emotions are tense right now for QF employees as the suspense builds until the airline comes to a decision. A spokesperson for Qantas said, “We’ll review the bid against the tenders we’ve received from outside suppliers and will provide an update once a decision has been made.”

Qantas could save an estimated US$100m by outsourcing ground labor, but that seems like nothing next to the US$2.7bn the airline has already lost this year, with revenue expected to take an even bigger hit as time goes on.

Photo: Wiki Commons