The Australian Services Union today questioned whether the illegal employment arrangements of hundreds of Qantas staff and subsequent underpayments was a simple mistake.
ASU Assistant National Secretary Linda White said it was a bit “hard to believe” that no Qantas senior executives were aware that these staff were illegally employed outside the employment agreement which has operated for more than 20 years.
“There are definitely questions that have not been answered here,” said Ms White.
“Qantas is one of the most meticulous organisations in Australia when it comes to HR and its just a bit of a stretch to believe no one in management knew that hundreds of people were employed under these arrangements.
“Someone had to know, someone had to approve and run the recruitment of these staff, someone had to sign off on the contracts, someone had to pay the wages. And someone at Qantas needs to be accountable for this – frankly someone’s head should roll.
“We’re also asking Qantas whether the person who oversaw the employment of these staff under these arrangements has been paid a bonus in the past 5 years while this wage theft was happening.
“It seems dreadfully unfair if Executives have benefitted from wage theft making their bottom line look better.”
Ms White said there were too many examples of big corporations underpaying staff.
“There seems to be a case of wage theft every week in Australian at the moment, which shows there is something wrong in the system.
“The rules are broken for working people in Australia when staff can be underpaid an average $8,000 a year for 5 years – that’s $40,000 – without being caught.
“We’ve got regulators breathing down the neck of worker’s union representatives but where are the regulators when staff are having their wages stolen like this?
“And when wage theft is revealed the consequence is what? They pay back what they should have paid anyway. It’s hardly a disincentive.
“Its good that Qantas are owning and paying staff their dues, but these people have had to do without $8,000 a year for several years which has put huge extra financial pressure on them.
“With the rising cost of living, these workers could have really used an extra $8,000 a year – it’s the sort of thing that places extra strain on families and relationships.”
Ms White said the union would be seeking to interrogate the company’s maths in determining the underpayments and workers should contact their union.
“If I was one of these workers, I certainly wouldn’t be relying on Qantas HR to tell me how much they’ve underpaid me – I’d be getting advice from the union.”