Qantas has abandoned its plans to ask its head office staff to work for free in its Sydney terminal over the busy Christmas period, and will instead pay for extra workers.
The back down comes after a barrage of criticism from workers and unions, with the airline accused of committing “Christmas wage theft” and CEO Alan Joyce labelled a “Christmas grinch”.
Email asked staff to volunteer
An email to head office staff asked them to volunteer to work in the terminals:
“We require volunteers to assist the self-service check in and auto bag drop area, bussing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk.”
The volunteer roles depended on the employee’s skill set, security requirements and preferences, according to the email.
The email, titled ‘Christmas peak Sydney International volunteer initiative 2018’, went viral after being posted by an Australian trade union on social media.
A Qantas spokesman said the volunteer initiative was aimed to ‘spread a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period’.
The spokesman confirmed the airline was not cutting costs and said they ‘also ask head office employees if they’d like to lend a hand, which is a mix of their own time and company time’.
“Volunteer tasks include handing out bottles of water and Christmas chocolates to passengers at airports and helping people find their way around the terminal,” the spokesman said.
Unions accuse airline of corporate greed
Natalie Lang, New South Wales secretary of the Australian Services Union, slammed the idea.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
News of the backdown has been celebrated on social media by the ASU.
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