October 18, 2017

The Fair Work Commission has slammed as “ludicrous” the defence by Qantas of paying less money to employees who help transfer elderly and disabled passengers around airports.

The Commission backed the employees’ claims for higher pay, adding that Qantas’s arguments were “very weak and unpersuasive”.

The TWU and Qantas Ground Services employees took the case after being given a higher classification to reflect their duties but being paid rates of a lower classification. The Commission stated: “QGS evidence and submissions very much understated the importance of the enhanced, specialist (people’s) skills expected of Commissionaires.”

Qantas has for four years treated these employees with disdain by previously recognizing on the one hand, in terms of classification, the important job they carry out but at the same time ignoring it through their pay structure. The Commission has rightly called them out on this issue.

Qantas’s treatment of employees transferring elderly, sick and disabled people and people whose need special assistance is a new low for the company. But this is part of series of attacks on hard-working staff. The company made $1.4 billion in the past year and it is now time to give back to the people who make the company great.

In June, Qantas failed in its attempt to cut staff pay at Q Catering by downgrading their positions while still getting them to perform the same work.  Qantas international cabin crew are on a two-tiered system that pays some cabin crew less than half the money for performing the same work.

Qantas uses labour-hire ground-handling firm Aerocare, exposed this year over staff forced to sleep at airports and in their cars because of low wages and split shifts.

A survey of aviation workers shows 42% are on part-time hours while 76% said they would not be able to afford to retire at 65. (The Qantas Effect: the changing nature of aviation employment).

The Fair Work Commission in its decision took Qantas to task over its attempts to argue that the person who took the request for assistance had a similar duty to the employee who actually assisted the passenger in need of help. “It would be akin to suggest an emergency call to Sydney Water, in respect to a broken water main, was more crucial than the plumber who fixes the problem,” the Commission stated.

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