Outsourced Qantas ground crews, baggage handlers speak out amid airport delays

Outsourced Qantas ground crews, baggage handlers speak out amid airport delays

Sacked Qantas baggage handlers say they are desperate to return to work as Australian airports face widespread chaos.

Some of the baggage handlers sacked by Qantas claim they have been refused new airport jobs despite staff shortages and customer complaints about lost luggage.

Many of the focused ground crew staff say they have been struggling to survive since the airline outsourced their jobs to labor hire companies during the pandemic.

More than 1100 baggage handlers, ramp workers and cabin cleaners have filled out a survey by the Transport Workers’ Union as its lengthy legal fight with Qantas drags on.

Almost half of the outsourced staff are still unemployed or in insecure work, with many moving in with family or friends or withdrawing their super to get by, according to the poll released on Tuesday.

A third of the former employees surveyed have developed depression or anxiety since being sacked, with one in 10 saying they have experienced suicidal thoughts and feelings of “worthlessness”.

The survey comes as Qantas and its chief executive officer Alan Joyce face widespread criticism from customers of the once world class airline over missing bags, flight cancellations and lengthy delays at airports.

The TWU has attributed some of the disruption to the outsourcing of ground and baggage handling jobs to third party companies such as Swissport, which has been contacted for comment.

Former ground crew worker Don Dixon blamed the disruption on “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.”

The TWU says it is investigating claims that some of these workers appear to have been “black-listed” from the labor hire companies that Qantas used to replace them.

Former baggage handler Mark Lenzo on Tuesday claimed: “They’re looking for workers, and yet I can’t get a job at any ground handling company out there. It’s just sickening”.

Qantas will go to the High Court after losing its appeal against a 2021 ruling that the outsourcing was unlawful and partially driven by many of the focused workers being union members with stronger bargaining capability.

The full bench of the Federal Court in May unanimously rejected Qantas’ first appeal against the decision.

But the judges rejected a cross-appeal from the union that the fired workers should get their jobs back because of the cost to Qantas, which had dissolved the subsidiary company that employed them.

A spokesman for Qantas apologized to customers who have had a delay in getting their luggage and blamed staff shortages for disruption at airports.

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

“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.”

He said affected employees had been offered support to transition to new jobs and some had taken up work with labor hire contractors.

The TWU is calling on the Albanian government to introduce an independent aviation tribunal, which the union says would help lift standards in the industry.

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