Qantas is defending its decision to ask staff to volunteer over the busy Christmas period, despite intense criticism.
Unions and workers accuse the airline of “corporate greed”, labelling CEO Alan Joyce a “Christmas Grinch” over the proposal.
They call the volunteer program “Christmas wage theft“.
Qantas defends decision to ask staff to volunteer
An email to head office staff asked for volunteers to help out at Sydney Airport over Christmas.
According to the airline, they will perform tasks such as handing out bottles of water and Christmas chocolates to passengers, in addition to helping people find their way around the terminal.
“To support our airport teams at [Sydney] over the 2018 peak Christmas travel period, we’re trialling a new volunteer program for our Campus-based people who’d like to lend a hand to the frontline in December and January.
“We require volunteers to assist at the self-service check-ins and auto bag drop area, bussing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk.
“The roles allocated to volunteers will depend on their preferences, skill set and security requirements.”
Natalie Lang, New South Wales secretary of the Australian Services Union, says she is outraged by the request for volunteers.
“Qantas posted over $1.6 billion in profit this year, it’s charging Christmas rates to passengers, and has the audacity to ask its lowest paid workers to work for free at Christmas.
“It’s a Grinch act of the highest order.
“Let’s be clear, this isn’t volunteering. This is wage theft.
“But workers are being asked to choose between ‘volunteering’ for their employer or their local charity.”
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at IR Claims, says the union has over-reacted and rejects the characterisation that it is “wage theft at Christmas”.
“Look, this is all a bit of a storm in a tea cup – if it’s what the airline says that it is, then I don’t see what all the fuss is about,” he said.
“This involves head office staff and senior management who probably are not covered by Awards.
“As long as they’re not being pressured or leaned on to volunteer, then I don’t think it’s a problem.
“The only issue I can see is if these volunteers are doing tasks that a paid employee would normally do.
“Then we have a situation where workers are missing out on extra shifts, or overtime, and therefore, they have a right to be angry.”
Qantas can afford to pay its staff
In a statement, Qantas denied the program is about cutting costs.
Instead if claims it is about “spreading a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period” instead.
“We always scale up with additional paid staff over the peak holiday period.
“And we also asked head office employees if they’d like to lend a hand.”
Business journalist Michael West from michaelwest.com.au tweeted the following figures:
In 2018, Qantas made a profit of $1.6 billion, and paid CEO Alan Joyce $10.5 million.
In that same time, Qantas boasted that it paid $3 million in company tax, (less than one third of Joyce’s salary).
It used most of its profits to buy back shares.
Earlier this year, it famously offered a bonus to staff, but only on the condition that they sign a new Enterprise Agreement.
Please call our team at Industrial Relations Claims today on