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Compensation for sacked workers delayed by months

Witness evidence in the compensation case against Qantas has concluded, but the 1,700 illegally outsourced workers will have to wait months before the case can properly conclude.

user iconNaomi Neilson 25 March 2024 Big Law
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The Federal Court heard the last of the witness evidence on Friday (22 March), but lingering questions about the “counterfactual world”, in which the sackings never occurred, have pushed the timeline back.

Justice Michael Lee ordered counsel for Transport Workers Union (TWU) and Qantas to prepare closing submissions ahead of May.

The closing submissions will now consider how likely the counterfactual world would be and respond to statistics about salary.


Qantas was found guilty of illegally outsourcing the ground handling staff in November 2020 by the Federal Court.

An appeal in the High Court upheld this decision.

In the current compensation hearings, Qantas submitted it should only have to compensate employees for up to 12 months because the outsourcing would have occurred legally around March 2021.

Colin Hughes, then-executive manager of Qantas airports, said the outsourcing was always going to occur because it would have been in the company’s best commercial interests.

“I can’t think of any Qantas manager who would not have recommended consideration of that proposal,” Hughes said.

“It is hard to think why that wouldn’t have been the case.”

Hughes outlined a meeting with Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) to determine the legal risks of the outsourcing decision.

He said in the counterfactual world, the Qantas team would have met with HSF again to “refresh the position”.

Earlier, TWU’s assistant national secretary and assistant secretary of the NSW and Queensland branches, Nick McIntosh, said the union would have approached the airline about an in-house bid.

McIntosh said the bid, prepared with assistance from Ernst & Young, was going to secure better job security for the workers.

He insisted Qantas was aware of what was included in the in-house bid and would have had a conversation about it.

“We were on the same dance floor. We might have been a long way from the band, but we were there,” McIntosh said.

Hughes dismissed this, telling the court Qantas would not have accepted the in-house bid because it was “undefined”.