Unions react after 6000 Qantas and Jetstar jobs are slashed

Job losses: Qantas has slashed its workforce by 6000 and continued the stand down of 15,000 staff.
Job losses: Qantas has slashed its workforce by 6000 and continued the stand down of 15,000 staff.

Unions have condemned yesterday's announcement by Qantas Group that it would slash 6000 Qantas and Jetstar jobs as part of its three-year strategy "to guide recovery" following the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated the travel industry.

Qantas will continue the stand down of 15,000 mostly international staff until flying returns and ground about 100 Qantas aircraft for up to 12 months and some for longer.

Its six remaining 747s will be retired immediately, six months ahead of schedule, and its delivery of new planes will be deferred.

With international borders expected to remain closed for some time as the world deals with the worsening coronavirus pandemic, Qantas said its strategy to "guide recovery and return to growth in a changed market" would see it slash costs by $15 billion over three years.

Just 8000 of the group's 29,000 staff are expected to have returned to work by the end of July this year. Qantas hopes this will increase to about 15,000 by the end of the year as domestic flying opens up.

"COVID represents the biggest challenge ever faced by global aviation and the group's response to the crisis is scaled accordingly," Qantas Group said in a statement.

"This unfortunately means a large number of job losses across Qantas and Jetstar."

The 6000 jobs are across all parts of the business and include 1500 ground operations staff (baggage handling, fleet presentation and ramp operations), 1050 cabin crew, 630 engineers and 220 pilots.

Qantas said the aim was to "rightsize" its workforce, fleet and other costs according to demand projections, with the ability to scale up as flying returns.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said while it entered this crisis "in a better position than most", it would take years before international flying "returns to what it was".

"We have to position ourselves for several years where revenue will be much lower. And that means becoming a smaller airline in the short term," he said.

"Adapting to this new reality means some very painful decisions. The job losses we're announcing today are confronting.

"This crisis has left us no choice but we're committed to providing those affected with as much support as we can. That includes preserving as many jobs as possible through stand downs, offering voluntary rather than compulsory redundancies where possible, and providing large severance payouts for long serving employees in particular.

"Redundancies are proposed to manage a surplus of around 6000 roles, with the temporary surplus of around 15,000 managed through a mix of stand down, annual leave and leave without pay."

Qantas said it would "consult with relevant unions on the proposed job losses ... in line with its obligations".

But unions say they should have been consulted before yesterday's announcement and criticised Qantas for putting profits before jobs.

The Australian Services Union assistant national secretary Linda White called on Qantas to reverse its decision and also urged the federal government to do more to help workers

"This announcement by Qantas is premature and we're calling on Alan Joyce and the Qantas board to engage with the federal government on an Aviation Keeper package to protect jobs," Ms White said.

"Cutting jobs and capacity now will only hamstring the industry and economy - Qantas is shooting itself in the foot."

ACTU president Michele O'Neil called the announcement "deplorable and premature" and said it was further evidence of Scott Morrison's "callous disregard for working people".

"Qantas brands itself as being the spirit of Australia but the truth is it has abandoned Australia and its workers at their time of greatest need," she said.

Qantas stood down the majority of its employees when it suspended all scheduled international flights from late March after the federal government recommended against all overseas travel in light of the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Qantas said at the time the decision to temporarily stand down 20,000 employees was made "to preserve as many jobs as possible longer term".