Qantas loses High Court appeal over sacked workers

“All eyes will be on Vanessa Hudson as she responds to this verdict. Illegally sacked workers are owed an apology and an end to Qantas’ attempts to delay paying compensation and penalties.”


Lawyers representing the workers said they would now go to the Federal Court to hear claims for compensation and seek penalties.

The decision follows the early departure of Qantas chief-executive Alan Joyce amid a political storm due to a combination of customer complaints, a consumer watchdog investigation, and questions over its influence on government decisions.

A Senate inquiry has been launched into Transport Minister Catherine King’s decision to reject Qatar Airways’ bid for increased flights in Australia, which she said was not motivated by the commercial interests of any one airline.

Qantas lodged the last-ditch appeal following a 2021 decision in the Federal Court, which found the airline business had contravened the Fair Work Act when it stood down employees working at 11 airports during the pandemic in November 2020.

The full bench of the Federal Court then upheld this decision in 2022, but the courts did not force the group to reinstate the affected employees.

The Federal Court was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Qantas was motivated only by commercial reasons and could not rule out that the carrier group also may have been trying to avoid future industrial action.

Qantas said the decision was solely motivated by its struggles to remain solvent and expressed “deep regret” that its staff had to lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

“There was very little certainty about the pandemic and our recovery when we made this decision, and it remained that way for more than a year afterwards. We ultimately lost more than $25 billion in revenue, so it was inevitable that we had to take significant action,” an airline spokesperson has previously said.

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