Around 2,500 Qantas and Jetstar employees to be laid off for two months due to the coronavirus shutdown of national borders, a move unions criticized for being made a day after the announcement of a wage support program of the government.
Domestic pilots, cabin crew and airport workers will be made redundant, mainly in New South Wales, but will not lose their jobs.
Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce expects the borders to be closed for at least two more months due to the ripple effects of the crisis and the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown in greater Sydney.
Laid-off employees will be given two weeks’ notice and will be paid until mid-August.
The announcement comes a day after the Morrison government unveiled a $ 100 million program to help domestic airlines retain staff through lockdowns and border closures.
The government program allows national airlines to claim $ 750 a week for half of their flight crew if they can post a 30% drop in business since Sydney was declared a national hotspot and couldn’t lay off workers.
Joyce said the different programs meant laid-off Qantas workers, including 2,500 in domestic operations and 6,000 in international operations, would receive varying levels of support from disaster payments from Covid or the new program.
He said engineers would not be made redundant because they are needed for aircraft maintenance, but acknowledged that contracted ground workers would not be eligible for payments – days after the federal court ruled against the legality of Qantas outsourcing.
“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we are now facing an extended period of reduced flights and that means no work for a number of our employees,” Joyce said on Tuesday.
Qantas had “absorbed a significant amount of cost” as a result of the blockages by continuing to pay staff their full rosters despite canceled flights, he said.
“Fortunately, we know that once the borders reopen, travel is at the top of the people’s list and flights tend to come back quickly, so we can get our people back to work.”
At a press conference later Tuesday morning, Joyce defended the resignation of staff in light of the strong government support he has received throughout the pandemic, which is on track to reach $ 2 billion .
Joyce said the way government support was reported was “misleading,” and explained that the majority came from employee payments, repatriation flights and ongoing freight – services which he said “benefit to the economy ”.
He reiterated that the airline is still working on its vaccination pass and plans to offer frequent flyer points and prizes to entice customers to get vaccinated.
But Joyce acknowledged there was no guarantee that its international flights would resume by the December deadline it had set.
The unions are furious at Qantas’ decision. In a tweet, the Transport Workers Union said the government’s wage subsidy schedule and Qantas’ announcement on Tuesday meant the package was “tailor-made” for the airline.
“This is the Qantas Republic,” the union said.
Qantas had fallen from nearly 100% of its usual domestic flights in May to less than 40% in July.
At the same time last year, more than 20,000 employees were made redundant.