Qantas loses High Court appeal over sacking of cleaners and baggage handlers

Qantas loses High Court appeal over the sacking of 1,700 workers during the pandemic.

Qantas has lost its High Court appeal over the sacking of 1,700 workers during the pandemic, with the court ruling the airline illegally outsourced the jobs.

The outsourcing took place in late 2020 and included cleaners, baggage handlers, and ground staff at 10 airports across Australia.

“Qantas acknowledges and accepts the High Court’s decision to uphold two prior rulings by the Federal Court regarding the legality of outsourcing the remainder of the airline’s ground handling function in 2020,” the airline said in a statement following the ruling.

The case was brought by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in a long legal battle in which two Federal Court rulings found that Qantas’ outsourcing breached the Fair Work Act.

Qantas had argued at the time that outsourcing the roles to third-party contractors was a necessary decision in order to restructure the business and improve the airline’s “ability to survive and ultimately recover”.

“The decision to outsource the remainder of the airline’s ground handling function was made in August 2020, when borders were closed, lockdowns were in place and no COVID vaccine existed. The likelihood of a years’ long crisis led Qantas to restructure its business to improve its ability to survive and ultimately recover,” the airline said.

“As we have said from the beginning, we deeply regret the personal impact the outsourcing decision had on all those affected, and we sincerely apologise for that.”

Following the ruling, TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the Qantas board needed an overhaul.

“Qantas needs a fresh start. A worker voice on the board would make a significant difference and send the right signal that Qantas is serious about getting back on track,” Kaine said.

The TWU is also calling for compensation for workers.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at

Sign up to INCLEAN’s newsletter.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required