‘Fight back’: New Qantas boss warned

·4-min read
Qantas’ incoming boss Vanessa Hudson has been put on notice by a major union figure. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

A major national transport union has issued a stern warning to incoming Qantas chief executive Vanessa Hudson, who will replace current airline boss Alan Joyce in November.

Mr Joyce, who first became chief executive in 2002, was a recurring target for the Transport Workers Union’s national secretary Michael Kaine on Tuesday as he delivered the keynote address at the annual National Council.

While Mr Kaine welcomed Qantas’ change in management, he said the aviation industry had been “destroyed by unchecked corporate greed” and was ready to “fight back”.

“It’s encouraging that Qantas has a new CEO in Vanessa Hudson and I hope she will work with us to repair the damage that Alan Joyce has done over the past 15 years,” he said.

“But we won’t wait to find out if she possesses the decency and common sense required to put workers at the centre of the desperately needed reconstruction of Qantas.”

The TWU has consistently blamed Mr Joyce for the casualisation of aviation workers, outsourcing jobs and stymieing wages.

Vanessa Hudson will become Qantas’ chief executive. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

Mr Kaine also put airline bosses on notice and announced the TWU would make an application to “significantly lift” pay and working conditions for people in the airline industry, including pursuing “multi-employer bargaining when the time comes”.

“We will meet the race to the bottom on wages by lifting the floor,” Mr Kaine said.

“This is just the beginning. Reversing 15 years of cumulative attacks on workers from a callous Qantas management team will take time, but councillors, if the TWU is known for anything, it is for our relentlessness.”

The TWU has been vocal in condemning Qantas’ decision to seek a High Court appeal of two rulings that found its decision to outsource 1700 baggage handlers at 10 airports amid the pandemic was unlawful.

Alan Joyce is stepping down. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

The airline has argued it needed to make “significant changes” due to a $25bn loss in revenue during this time.

Prior to the first hearing earlier this month, Mr Kaine said the decision was an example of the “human toll of this cruel, cruel (Alan) Joyce administration”.

“They’re going to try and overturn two decisions of the Federal Court, one from the full Federal Court that said that 1700 workers represented here … were illegally sacked so that Qantas did not have to bargain with them and did not have to face the prospect of those workers exercising their workplace right to take protected industrial action,” he said.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the union would push for Qantas workers to get a ‘significant lift’ in wages and conditions. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

NSW Premier’s promise to gig workers

Opening the TWU National Council, NSW Premier Chris Minns was given two standing ovations by councillors as he highlighted his Labor government’s commitment to increase rights for gig workers, and reforming tolls policy.

The Minns government has promised to amend the Industrial Act of 1996 to extend provisions to protect food delivery and rideshare drivers, including a compensation and portable leave scheme.

“Not every issue in politics is about life and death but this one is,” Mr Minns said.

The Premier also acknowledged the five delivery drivers who died in 2020 and said it was a “wake-up call” for NSW and showed the laws were lacking.

“Because of this, workers in that economy didn’t benefit from the minimum wage, paid holidays, sick leave and parental leaves,” he continued.

“It was almost a second class of work that was being engineered, one that denied a safety net, minimum conditions and other protections available to every other Australian in the workforce.”

Premier Chris Minns with TWU national secretary Michael Kaine. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Nikki Short

He also spoke to his government’s election promises to reduce the cost of tolls for transport workers and truck drivers.

This includes instigating a $60 toll cap, launching an independent review into toll prices and reducing the truck multiplier from three to two for up to 10 trips this week.

Slated to begin on January 1, 2024, this could save a truck driver who does two trips a day, five days per week, $3800.