Qantas workers are outraged the Fair Work Ombudsman has issued a meagre $390,500 fine to the airline giant for more than $9 million in wage theft.
The Ombudsman today announced it had reached an agreement with Qantas which includes the fine after it robbed hundreds of workers of their wages, overtime, annual leave entitlements and superannuation over an eight-year period.
Given Qantas’ record profits during this time and the significant earnings made on the systemic underpayments, Australian Services Union Assistant National Secretary Linda White said the fine effectively operates as an incentive for companies to rip off their workers.
“This isn’t a punishment, it is condonement by the Regulator who is supposed to protect workers from abuse,” said Ms White.
“If you can steal $9 million, which would have earned millions in interest over that period and only get fined $390,500, companies will keep doing it, because they profit from the practice.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman has effectively condoned wage theft – this is an insult to Qantas workers who had trusted their employer.
“Qantas originally described this wage theft as an “embarrassing bungle” limited to just 55 underpaid workers who were ‘misclassified’ but we always knew that was not the case.
“This was not a misclassification or ‘bungle’ – it was a deliberate and systemic abuse of workers.
“Qantas deliberately put in place processes to avoid the enterprise bargaining agreement by abandoning the standard HR practice of having position descriptions attached to jobs, opening the door to underpayments.”
Ms White said the issue is being swept under the rug by a regulator who clearly has no appetite for a serious response to this wage theft crisis.
“The timing of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s announcement on the Qantas agreement also had to be questioned.
“It appears the workplace ‘watchdog’ has been fully subsumed into the Morrison government’s media management machine, dropping this news on a Friday when it will be buried by coverage of the coronavirus.
“The airline industry is grappling with its most significant challenge in decades and workers are on tenterhooks about their future – but after more than a year of investigation, the Fair Work Ombudsman has chosen today to ‘take out the trash’ and announce its deal with Qantas.
“That decision rubs salt in the wound for a community that is already struggling with a high cost of living and now faced an unparalleled period of uncertainty.”
Qantas is among a string of Australian corporate giants who have now been found to have underpaid their workers.