HomeTravelHumbled Qantas faces multimillion-dollar compensation payout

Humbled Qantas faces multimillion-dollar compensation payout

Unions are claiming victory in their campaign against Qantas sackings, but who will be footing the bill?

The High Court of Australia decided last year that Qantas illegally sacked 1683 workers, and since then the company has been fighting tooth and nail to minimise any penalties it faces.

The matter has returned to the Federal Court for hearings on just how much compensation the sacked workers are entitled to.

Qantas sacked the staff during the height of the COVID lockdowns in 2020. Most of the jobs were outsourced to contractors.

Qantas claims it would have sacked the workers anyway, which is probably not doing it any favours in turning public opinion.

In reply, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has suggested compensation could exceed $100 million.

Qantas chief operating officer Colin Hughes told the court he was advised there would be ‘low legal risk’ for sacking the workers and outsourcing the jobs, and that Qantas was planning to take the same action in 2021 anyway.

“My position would have been, I would have recommended that we proceed with a proposal to outsource. That would have been almost illogical for me not to have that position,” Mr Hughes said.

“I can’t think of any Qantas manager who wouldn’t have recommended consideration of that proposal.”

Mr Hughes previously hit the headlines in 2022 when he asked executives to volunteer their time to work as baggage handlers due to staff shortages, a move which the TWU described as a “shocking insult”. 

The court heard testimony from workers about how their mental health was damaged after losing their jobs and how many were taking prescription medicine to cope. 

“These workers have been dragged, dragged to hell and back through two painful unsuccessful appeals, through a failed mediation process,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

“Their lives have been dislocated, they’ve lost properties, there’s been family breakdowns,” he added.

Airline apologises

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline “sincerely apologises and deeply regrets the personal impact the outsourcing decision had on these former employees”. 

“We want them to receive fair compensation as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said.

As well as the compensation, Qantas also faces multimillion-dollar penalties for breaking the law. 

So, who will pay all that money? The generously compensated manager and board who approved the decision, or the flying public? I think we all know how that’s going to play out.

Do you think Qantas executives and management should pay the fines? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: Should you be concerned about flying on Boeing planes?

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. Executives who authorized the sackings should be looking at criminal charges if what they did was illegal. Start at Joyce. Just because he’s no longer with Qantas doesn’t mean he’s not immune. Let’s hope the shareholders sweep out these work bullies at the next AGM.
    The Government should also look at no more taxpayer monies go to this disgusting company. They’re a parasite on the taxpayer

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