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Qantas, Jetstar stand down 2,500 crew due to ongoing border closures

Qantas has announced that around 2,500 frontline Qantas and Jetstar employees will be stood down without pay from mid-August for an estimated two months in response to ongoing COVID outbreaks and border closures across Australia.

Qantas has announced that around 2,500 frontline Qantas and Jetstar employees will be stood down without pay from mid-August for an estimated two months in response to ongoing COVID outbreaks and border closures across Australia.

The news comes just hours after the federal government announced that Australian airlines including Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Rex would be able to claim $750 a week for half of their pilots and flight attendants in a bid to ward off another round of job losses.

The Qantas Group says the stand-down for 2,500 of its employees without pay is a temporary measure to deal with a significant drop in flying caused by lockdown restrictions in Greater Sydney in particular and the knock-on border closures in all other states and territories.

The Group says that despite the stand-downs, no job losses are expected and that employees will be given two weeks’ notice before the stand-down takes effect in mid-August.

The stand-downs will directly impact domestic pilots, cabin crew and airport workers, mostly in New South Wales and other states, given the nature of airline networks.

qantas-pilots-cabin-crew-customer-service-ground-crew

However, The Transport Workers Union claims that ground crew such as baggage handlers and cleaners have been cut out of the wage subsidy which Qantas now no longer employs after it outsourced them.

It was only two weeks ago, that Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce sent an email to all employees lamenting “frustratingly familiar challenges” and a 40 per cent drop in domestic capacity as a result of the Sydney lockdown.

“We’re not at the point of requiring stand-downs in our domestic operations at this stage,” he wrote.

“But to be honest, we can’t rule it out if multiple states keep their borders closed for extended periods.”

The airline said that support in government disaster payments would be key to helping eligible employees get through this challenging period, with the Qantas Group saying it welcomes the latest targeted Federal Government support offered for those stood down outside of declared hotspots and to retain domestic aviation capability.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the difficult decision to trigger stand-downs reflected the reality confronting many businesses operating in New South Wales.

Alan-Joyce-Qantas-CEO
Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO

“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying, and that means no work for a number of our people.

“Based on current case numbers, it’s reasonable to assume that Sydney’s borders will be closed for at least another two months. We know it will take a few weeks once the outbreak is under control before other states open to New South Wales and normal travel can resume.

“This is extremely challenging for the 2,500 of our people directly impacted, but it’s also very different from this time last year when we had more than 20,000 employees stood down and most of our aircraft in hibernation for months on end.

“The vaccine rollout means the end is in sight, and the concept of lockdowns will be a thing of the past. Australia just needs more people rolling up their sleeves as more vaccine arrives.

“The challenge around opening international borders remains. There are still several thousand Qantas and Jetstar crew who normally fly internationally and who have been on long periods of stand down since the pandemic began. Higher vaccination rates are also key to being able to fly overseas again and finally getting all our people back to work,” added Mr Joyce.

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Responding to the announcement, Transport Workers Union National Secretary Michael Kaine said today is a big blow for aviation workers.

“Aviation workers will today be reeling from this latest news. There is utter confusion over who will receive the wage subsidy. Qantas says it won’t pay workers stood down but the Federal Government says it will only pay supports to cabin crew and pilots – and even then only half of them. The Federal Government and Qantas are playing a game of Russian roulette with aviation workers over who will be able to pay their bills and who won’t,” he said.

“Anyone who has an interest in aviation will be alarmed today that the federal government is clearly not in charge of aviation policy and that senior Qantas management is calling the shots. Just hours after the Government reveals supports that seem tailored for Qantas, the airline announces stand-downs. There are sweet deals being cut involving public money for Qantas that is aimed at cutting its competitors out.”

“There will be thousands of aviation workers terrified today about the future. They are being stood down from their jobs and some won’t be able to access support. This half-baked approach on policy from the federal government doesn’t cut it for a vital industry like aviation,” he added.