The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has launched legal action against Qantas in the Fair Trade Commission over its bonus scheme which was announced by CEO Alan Joyce after the company made a record profit of $1.6 billion in 2018.
The bonus was made up of a $500 staff travel credit and a cash component of $2,000 for full-time employees and $1,500 for part-time employees. While the $500 credit was available to employees immediately, Qantas has withheld the cash component of the bonus for all 27000 non-management staff until they agree to enter a new enterprise agreement.
The airline also warned that if one or more employees took any form of action that “harms” Qantas “all employees in the relevant work group will lose eligibility for the bonus.
The ACTU want the bonuses to be paid immediately. They claim that bonus scheme breaches the Fair Work Act because it discriminates against workers covered by collective agreements and that Qantas is coercing and pressuring employees to approve the new agreement by making the bonus payment conditional on its approval.
Qantas has countered by saying that these are discretionary bonuses in addition to what employees are entitled to under their enterprise agreements, and there are conditions attached. Qantas has dismissed the opportunity to appear at a conciliation conference with the ACTU to try and solve the dispute and have hinted at abandoning future bonuses and returning the money to shareholders as dividends.
This is an interesting backdrop to several EBA’s negotiations being currently played out notably with the pilots, baggage handlers and engineers. Negotiations have not progressed as amicably as previously. While all employees agreed to an 18-month wage freeze in their last EBA after Qantas made a big loss in 2014 employees are now seeking a greater slice of the pie now that Qantas has being posting consistent stellar and record profits. Qantas is adamant that they need to keep wage increases between 2 and 3% as well as productivity gains to remain competitive.
Qantas’ 2019 financial report out soon, stay tuned for their profitability results and more.
Source: ACTU sues Qantas over ‘discriminatory’ bonus scheme by David Marin-Guzman Australian Financial Review July 24th.