By Tanya Plibersek

03 September 2020





SUBJECT: Qantas.

MICHAEL KAINE, NATIONAL SECRETARY OF TWU: Good morning, it's Michael Kaine National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union here today with Qantas workers. Qantas workers whose jobs last week were announced by Alan Joyce as being replaced. The work that they do for Qantas, have done for decades, is still available. That’s still work that needs to be done. And despite the fact that we have a community compact put in place by Scott Morrison back in March, the community compact called JobKeeper, a community compact to keep workers connected with their employer. Despite the fact that Qantas has received $800 million worth of community money during this crisis, Alan Joyce made the decision to sever those jobs. Jobs that still exist, and send them to third-party operators with questionable safety and very questionable standards who’ve been dragged through the court for months.

Today I'm going to hand very soon to Tanya Plibersek. We have Parliamentarians here supporting these workers, they have to be back in Parliament very soon. So I'm going to call shortly on Don Dixon a Qantas worker to speak , and then Tanya Plibersek. First I want to announce that today the Transport Workers Union on behalf of these Qantas workers, these 2,500 workers who are being replaced in echoes of the waterfront, the Transport Workers Union is lodging its first tranche of legal action against this move. These workers are being told that they have to bid for their own jobs. They've been given but a few weeks to put that together across dozens of ports across the country.

It does not seem genuine in any respect. How can it be genuine to sever these workers from their positions when JobKeeper is in place? How can it be genuine to ask these workers to bid for their own jobs in circumstances where the company is also asking for $80 million worth of capital input - new equipment for these workers to somehow provide? And how can it be genuine when they're given but a few weeks to put together sophisticated bid? A bid for their own jobs. This is a warning to Scott Morrison and it's an alert to the Australian community. Tomorrow this could be any worker in Australia. A secure good-paying job in aviation, something that's sought after for decades in our community, has been severed by the spiteful corporate dictatorship headed by Alan Joyce.

Let's not make this the norm in our Australian community. Let's make sure secure Australian jobs are the norm. We’ll be fighting hard, fighting hard in the courts, fighting hard in the community. Scott Morrison, it's time for you to step up and take control of this situation. Alan Joyce, it's time for you to step down. I’m going to a call on Don Dickson, a worker to explain his situation, Don.

DON DICKSON, TWU MEMBER: Morning everyone, thank you Michael. First of all, I want to congratulate everyone who works for Qantas. All these beautiful workers behind us who, most have travelled from Sydney, so we left very early this morning to make this trek down to the Nation's Capital. We're here today mainly to bring our position to the Prime Minister, other members of the Labor Party and anyone else who wants to listen to our plight. This is not a fight just for Qantas workers, this is a fight for all workers in Australia that your job is unsecure, you can be replaced like they're trying to replace us. We are hoping that not only Qantas, but the Members of Parliament will take reasonable steps to listen to this, it's a ridiculous proposal and get back to Australians doing Australian’s jobs throughout the country.

It's really a disappointing position to be in. Especially how most of us have been there 20 years plus, being loyal to the company and you know what, you don't get promised to work forever, we understand that, but when you're getting replaced it certainly leaves an empty hole in the stomach. So we're hoping today that we're going to get some positive feedback from the politicians and the country's leaders, and that we’ll probably have more to say after we hear from them. So thanks for supporting us. Thanks.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Thanks very much Michael, and thank you to your union members who have travelled so far to be with us today. Qantas is a company that has a really special place in the heart of many Australians. A lot of us have had that experience of being overseas and you walk onto the Qantas jet, and you hear the Australian accents and it's actually a really good feeling. It's a feeling like coming home. And the reason that Qantas has had such a strong positive feeling for Australians is because it's been one of our biggest and most successful Australian companies. Its employed thousands of Australians over the years and one of those was my dad.

My dad worked for Qantas for more than 20 years, in fact I brought his 20 year certificate Michael. I got my brother to send a photo of this. This is hangs in our home. My dad worked for Qantas for longer than 20 years, but when he worked there for 20 years he got this certificate and it's in a little frame in my mum's house. My dad died years ago, but we've still got this hanging on the wall. It was a real sense of pride that my dad had in working for this big Australian company. He was a plumber and a gas fitter and he worked on the jet base at Mascot and he didn't just work there himself, he was the leading hand so he managed the other plumbers on the on the jet base. And there was a bunch of them that worked there then, they had apprentices in those days too. It was a company that didn't just employ Australians, it trained Australians and it was a job that was secure, that was predictable. You always knew that you would have a pay check and my dad took it really seriously. He would always be there an hour early to work out who is going to do which jobs during the day, so that he could manage his crew. He took it really seriously and he loved working at Qantas. But that was a different Qantas to the one that we're seeing today. That was a different Qantas because they had a secure workforce that had predictable jobs and they knew those jobs were going to be there tomorrow. The Qantas of today is a workplace that's not training and investing in its staff and that is taking the jobs of people like these, the people who are behind me today - two and a half thousand of them - and saying, ‘we can do it cheaper’. That's all they're saying ‘we can do it cheaper’.

‘The loyalty that you have shown this company over years, in some cases over decades, doesn't matter. We're not going to return that loyalty because we think we can find people who'll do the same work as you cheaper’. They're not saying they can do it better, they're not saying they can do it more efficiently, they're not saying they can do it more safely. They're just saying you can do it cheaper.

I think that most Australians would be incredibly disappointed by that attitude, especially when we've put hundreds of millions of dollars into programs like JobKeeper so that we keep Australians employed. These are the worst economic times we've seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The most important thing we should be doing right now, every Government, every business working together, is to keep Australians employed. To keep them in jobs, because those Australians insecure jobs spending money will create work for other Australians. That's how our economy works. That's what demand and confidence in our economy requires. So these people behind me deserve to keep their jobs that they are committed to, that they have done loyally, that they have done well for so many years. They don't deserve to be replaced by a cheaper workforce, but particularly at a time like this.

I just need to say this one last thing. We have a Prime Minister that is quick to take credit but slow to take responsibility. He should take responsibility for making Qantas and other big companies, that have been recipients of JobKeeper payments, he should ensure that they keep their workers employed. Having taken that payment they need to repay the investment of Australian taxpayers in their businesses by keeping Australians employed.

So can I just congratulate the union on the campaign that they're running, highlighting the unfairness of this decision by Qantas and tell you and tell all your members that I'm right with you.

KAINE: Thanks Tanya. I know that MPs have to get back. I'm going to call on Matt Thistlethwaite who's very close to this in his electorate as well. Thanks, Matt.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES: Thanks, Michael. Like Tanya my father worked for Qantas for 34 years. It was a good stable job that kept our family. He was very, very proud of the fact that he worked for Australia's national airline. Like many of these workers behind us and those that do the job for Qantas. They're very proud of the fact that they're working for our national airline. I spoke to my father yesterday about what's gone on at Qantas over the last week. He's certainly not proud of what Qantas has become today and what Qantas has done to these workers and their families and their 2,500 co-workers who have been left on the scrap heap by Qantas this week.

It's bad enough for the national airline to sack people during a pandemic and a recession. It's bad enough for them to pocket JobKeeper which is meant to protect these workers jobs and then sack them. But what's the ultimate insult is that they're going to bring in another company, a foreign company most likely, and employee these guys’ jobs on lower wages. Now that's corporate immorality at its worst. That's not what Australians expect from our national airline. Now this government, the Morrison Government say that they're all about jobs. Their slogan at the last election was 'jobs and growth'. Well, they want to start walking the talk, because you're not for jobs if you stand by and allow our national airline to sack 2,500 of their workers and replace them with a foreign corporation on lower wages and conditions. You're not about jobs if you cut workers penalty rates, for some of the lowest paid workers in the country, so that they take home less pay to their families each week. And if you're the party that introduces WorkChoices and puts people onto individual contracts and takes them out of their unions, you're not the party of jobs. It's about time the Morrison Government was held to account on this issue and stood up to, and if you're about jobs protect those workers and their families. Get a plan for aviation in this country and get a plan to get Australians back to work because that's what this workforce here, and that's what the Australian public, expects of this government. Thanks.

KAINE: Thanks Matt as many people know Senator Sheldon has been involved in aviation for many, many years. He's guided us through some really difficult times like the Ansett collapse, Tony Sheldon, please.

SENATOR TONY SHELDON, SENATOR FOR NSW: Thanks. Thanks very much. Thanks very much Michael and to the workers of Qantas. But also this is a question for all Australians.

This government has a responsibility to make sure that families can be fed, they can be protected and they can be nurtured. This government does not have a plan for jobs and they're allowing Alan Joyce and the Qantas Group to turn around and destroy 2,500 families in this country. Is that their job plan? Because that's the only plan they've got for aviation. I saw Alan Joyce over nearly a decade ago when he shut down this airline, and the fight then with Alan Joyce and Qantas was about outsourced labour being paid lower rates of pay, people being replaced by foreign companies at lower wages and being exploited.

We have a situation right now that Qantas is putting bids out to foreign companies. Dnata - if any of these workers go to work for Dnata on lower rates of pay, they'll also not be getting JobKeeper because the Government, along with millions of other Australians, have abandoned the aviation industry and those 5,000 workers in aviation.

This Government needs to turn around and be held to account. What's particularly appalling is that many of these workers at Qantas and Jetstar live in the Prime Minister's electorate. He talks about being a Shire guy. Well, how about he stops being so shy about standing up for the community in his own electorate? Stand up for fellow Australians, stand up for the families in your own electorate, or stand with a multi-millionaire boss who's decided to undercut their jobs and then they use that money?

This is not about the survival of Qantas. This is about a $100 million war chest to do what Alan Joyce said: to be the last airline standing when we come out of COVID-19. These workers are a sacrifice for that ambition for this company, to be the last airline standing, and the Prime Minister is sitting on his hands and allowing it to happen.

Well, I'll say this directly to you, Mr Prime Minister and I’ll say to your government and every government across every state in this country: you should be using your procurement power, the money you spend, to turn around and say unless you save these jobs, money will not be spent with Qantas. This money should be spent for State governments and this national government, which is the biggest buyer of airline seats, to turn around and make sure these jobs are saved. Scott Morrison you have the power to do it – use it.