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Qantas: Outsourcing will lead to a major incident pilot tells ABC Four Corners

Systematic cost-cutting means it’s only a matter of time before a ‘devastating incident’ happens at Qantas, insiders have warned.

A short haul pilot with the embattled airline, speaking anonymously on Monday’s Four Corners, said the national carrier business model of threatening pilots with unemployment and continually outsourcing to cheaper inexperienced staff can only lead to ‘disaster’.

‘The stress affiliated with this is underestimated,’ the pilot said.

‘When you mix a safety critical role with the threat of losing your job then it really only ends one way.

‘A mistake will be made, there will be an incident and there could be devastating consequences as a result.’ 

The Flying Kangaroo has struggled since its return to the sky after the Covid pandemic with cancelations, delays and lost baggage plaguing the airline.

Employees say poorly trained outsourced ground crew are the main reason for the ongoing issues.

Former and current Qantas staff said the airline's systematic hiring of inexperienced workers will lead to a major incident and is putting customers at risk

Former and current Qantas staff said the airline’s systematic hiring of inexperienced workers will lead to a major incident and is putting customers at risk

The Federal Court in September 2021 ruled Qantas illegally sacked 2000 workers when the Covid crisis took hold and replaced them with more cost-effective outsourced crew.

But when international borders reopened earlier this year, the under-trained staff were unable to meet the soaring demand of large-scale operations.

One groundsman who did not wish to be identified said about 50 per cent of all delayed flights have been caused by luggage problems – either planes taking off before its cargo has been loaded or with the previous flight’s still onboard.

‘Anybody who thinks the outsource of the in-house ground handling is not a problem is delusional,’ they said.

‘Bags aren’t making it to aircrafts on time, bags are being loaded onto aircraft incorrectly, flights are being cancelled because crew are running out of hours to operate these flights in the time it would take to fix the issues.

‘If you go to Sydney airport now they put garbage bags up on the windows where all these bags are being held that were lost or haven’t made flights.

‘Do they not want the people to see what’s going on?’ 

Workers said Qantas outsourced flight attendants, pilots and grounds staff which leads to massive pay differences

Workers said Qantas outsourced flight attendants, pilots and grounds staff which leads to massive pay differences

A anonymous current pilot with the Qantas (above) said the airline is continually threatening pilots to overwork themselves which will inevitably lead to an incident with'devastating consequences'

A anonymous current pilot with the Qantas (above) said the airline is continually threatening pilots to overwork themselves which will inevitably lead to an incident with ‘devastating consequences’

The worker said the limited numbers and inexperience of the outsourced contractor ground crews mean worker turnover is high, further straining the system to its limits.

‘We can’t build enough experienced people doing the job more efficiently and safely and so we do jobs more slowly and more haphazardly because people just don’t know, they’re still learning on the job,’ they said. 

The ground worker revealed the airline has already had several major incidents where staff error almost caused serious injury.

‘In one instance I’m aware of, the ground handlers loaded the aircraft incorrectly,’ they said.

‘So what should have gone in the front went in the back and what went in the back should have gone in the front.

‘These sorts of things are all to do with weight. There’s a certain way aircrafts have to be loaded down below and it was only realised it was done the wrong way just before the cargo hold was supposed to be closed.’

Qantas uses subsidiaries, outside companies who hire workers that are then contracted to businesses like Qantas, which means large pay and rights disparities among staff

Qantas uses subsidiaries, outside companies who hire workers that are then contracted to businesses like Qantas, which means large pay and rights disparities among staff

Former flight attendant Matthew Allsop said he wore the Qantas uniform for more than 15 years despite never actually working for the company.

He explained Qantas hires its staff through subsidiaries, essentially meaning workers are hired by separate businesses who are contracted by Qantas to supply workers.

Mr Allsop said workers from four different companies can all be on the same flight, leading to massive disparities in pay and rights.

‘By creating these wholly-owned subsidiaries and small companies, they manage to water down the pay and conditions each time to slowly erode the high value of pay and conditions that once existed in the legacy part of the airline,’ Mr Allsop said.

‘We had a New Zealand based subsidiary, a UK based subsidiary and two Australia subsidiaries.

‘George Orwell summed it up perfectly in his quote that all animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others. That was our working environment.’

Mr Allsop said flight attendants are expected to be the front line to dangerous situations on flights but Qantas’s hiring system means not all staff are valued the same, despite facing the same work conditions.

Former flight attendant Matthew Allsop (above) said he would work among employees from four different companies all on board the same Qantas flight

Former flight attendant Matthew Allsop (above) said he would work among employees from four different companies all on board the same Qantas flight

Flight attendants operating the same flight could be paid anywhere from $23 to $40 an hour, depending on which subsidiary they are hired by

Flight attendants operating the same flight could be paid anywhere from $23 to $40 an hour, depending on which subsidiary they are hired by

‘I don’t work for a tea and coffee company, I work in a safety environment and I work on a heavy piece of machinery,’ he said.

‘I am the airline’s first responder. If there is a fire, I’m expected to run towards it. If there is a medical emergency, I’m expected to run towards it and render all help.

‘So for that critical safety sensitive role basically people are now being paid the same as if they worked for a fast food outlet.’

Data obtained by the ABC found domestic hourly rates can vary from $40 for Qantas legacy staff to just $23 for new subsidiary staff. 

Tony Lucas, a senior Qantas pilot and president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, said Qantas’s subsidiary system has also driven pilots to the edge.

Qantas recently announced the introduction of the longest non-stop commercial flight in the world but Mr Lucas said pilots were essentially forced to take up the difficult route, along with other harsh working conditions.

Senior Qantas pilot and president of the Australian and International Pilots Association Tony Lucas (above) said Qantas will'put a metaphorical gun to (pilots) head' by threatening them with unemployment if they refuse to overwork themselves

Senior Qantas pilot and president of the Australian and International Pilots Association Tony Lucas (above) said Qantas will ‘put a metaphorical gun to (pilots) head’ by threatening them with unemployment if they refuse to overwork themselves

‘They play one group of pilots off another group and essentially threaten to take the flying a group of pilots is currently doing and give it to another group of pilots,’ he said.

‘Ultimately they put a metaphorical gun to our head and said to us that if you don’t agree to these terms and conditions, that they would give that flying to another entity.’

Former Qantas pilot Keith Marriott explained pilots are easily susceptible to threats of unemployment because their job skills, while impressive, are limited.

When speaking of 2011 Qantas worker strikes over outsourcing, which ended in the company ignoring union requests, Mr Marriott said: ‘Not only did it cause massive anxiety to Qantas families but broke the trust between Qantas pilots and the company and I don’t think it’s ever been recovered.

‘To pilots, job security is everything.

‘There’s no other job that is under so much scrutiny and you’re trained to a very high level but your skills are not portable. 

‘Pilots cherish their job security and unfortunately that has been used as a threat.

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Qantas CEO Alan Joyce (above) has maintained that Qantas’s current issues are not the result of an inexperienced workforce but the repercussions of the Covid pandemic

‘If you don’t comply with what we want, we’ll find someone else that will.’ 

When asked what he thinks of Qantas’s current situation, Mr Marriott said: ‘I don’t think they value their workforce, the workforce are taken for granted.

‘I think the passengers are also taken for granted but their greatest asset is a loyal workforce.

‘They need to take a look at the whole business model and realise nickel-and-diming people is not the way to make this airline profitable and functional once again.’ 

However, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has maintained that his airline’s current difficulties with delays, baggage handling and customer service are the result of pandemic interruption.

During a press conference two weeks ago, Joyce addressed the companies $1.859billion loss and apologised for its ongoing problems. 

‘All of this resulted in well-publicised problems: long queues, delayed flights and misplaced bags,’ he said on Thursday.

‘It was incredibly tough for our people and deeply frustrating for our passengers.

‘It simply wasn’t good enough, and for that we have apologised.’

Daily Mail Australia has contacted Qantas for comment on the integrity of its hiring systems.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce is NOT sorry about buying a $19m mega mansion as he reveals the family heartbreak that took him away from Australia

By Sam Mcphee for Daily Mail Australia

Alan Joyce has hit out at his critics in a scathing new interview just days after Qantas posted a staggering yearly loss of $1.9billion.

The airline is in the middle of legal action over its decision to lay off thousands of workers during the pandemic to cut costs as employees reveal its plummeting conditions and morale levels.

The under-fire Qantas chief executive told The Australian he was sick of answering questions about his decision making, both professionally and personally.

Mr Joyce was criticised for buying a $19million mansion on Sydney Harbour during the pandemic after cutting thousands of staff.

‘Why is it relevant what I do in my private life? I’m not a public figure. People regard the CEO of Qantas as like a politician and it definitely shouldn’t be. It’s a business figure,’ Mr Joyce told the publication.

‘It’s been well reported over the years how much I get paid, so I do have the money because Qantas went to record profits and had a ­record share price.’

Alan Joyce has hit out at criticism of his leadership, private life and $2million salary in a scathing new interview

Alan Joyce has hit out at criticism of his leadership, private life and $2million salary in a scathing new interview

Mr Joyce purchased a $19million mansion on Sydney Harbour during the pandemic while he cut thousands of staff

Mr Joyce purchased a $19million mansion on Sydney Harbour during the pandemic while he cut thousands of staff

Mr Joyce also responded to a recent trip he took during the July school holidays, a peak travel time when queues snaked outside airport doors, bags were lost and flights were delayed or cancelled. 

The Qantas CEO was forced to fly home early as customers unleashed over the airline grappling with half of its flights leaving late and a 6.2 per cent cancellation rate.

‘I have an 82-year old mother who is not very well and I shouldn’t have to justify to anybody that I see her,’ the CEO said. 

‘I think it’s completely unfair.’

Mr Joyce told The Australian he was prepared to do what was needed to keep the airline profitable, and said the bickering from unions was making the task more difficult – despite his family background.

Mr Joyce’s grandfather played a role in the union movement in Dublin’s working class, helping set up the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The Qantas boss also said he had voted for Labor several times – but now found himself constantly locked in battle with the people he once fought for. 

 ‘I do come from that background,’ Mr Joyce told the publication. 

‘When some of the union’s claims are going to put the company in financial distress and cause a lot of people to lose their jobs, I don’t think that’s fair, and it’s my job as CEO to stand up and fight.’

Joyce can be seen in the photo speaking with members of the frontline team

Joyce can be seen in the photo speaking with members of the frontline team 

Mr Joyce’s early return from his holiday in Ireland coincided with the CEO asking executives to leave their desks and help baggage handlers with the mountain of luggage.

The CEO himself was spotted on the tarmac in a high-vis jacket earlier this month alongside ground staff before senior executives were asked to work as baggage handlers in an internal email.

However a spokesperson for Qantas told Daily Mail Australia the picture of Joyce was not new, and was taken during a general visit to frontline teams, which the CEO does regularly.

After the photo was taken, Colin Hughes, the airline’s chief operating officer, wrote to high-level staff saying it was looking for at least 100 managers to work in a variety of airport roles for up to five days a week.

Mr Hughes said there was ‘no expectation that you will opt into this role on top of your full-time position’, but noted it was a necessary action to take as a response to growing criticism of Qantas’ ability to handle passenger demand.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been spotted on a runway in a high-vis vest before the company asked its senior executives to work as baggage handlers. A spokesperson for Qantas told Daily Mail Australia the picture was taken during a general visit to frontline teams, which he does regularly

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been spotted on a runway in a high-vis vest before the company asked its senior executives to work as baggage handlers. A spokesperson for Qantas told Daily Mail Australia the picture was taken during a general visit to frontline teams, which he does regularly

The issues with Qantas come as Mr Joyce, 55, and his husband Shane Lloyd bought the palatial 1908 Federation residence in Mosman on the city’s lower north shore earlier this year, trading up from their inner city penthouse at The Rocks.

The sprawling home has six bedrooms and multiple living areas, including outdoor living spaces on two massive decks overlooking the busy bay. 

After being on the market for several months, it was sold by former foreign exchange dealer Alison Ethell and her sister Jane, who bought it for $1.25million 19 years ago. 

Mr Joyce and Mr Lloyd’s new 631-square-metre home was completely rebuilt in 2015 with Seattle architect Paul Moon transforming the house into a modern classic, with the help of Lovett Custom Homes.

Now it is an enormous three-level home, set above a large three-level parterre garden that leads to direct deep waterfront access.

At the water’s edge it has a jetty that could accommodate a 7.6-metre sailing boat, which might come in handy with the Sydney amateur sailing club located directly across Mosman Bay from the property.  

After being on the market for several months, it was sold by former foreign exchange dealer Alison Ethell and her sister Jane, who bought it for just $1.25million 19 years ago

After being on the market for several months, it was sold by former foreign exchange dealer Alison Ethell and her sister Jane, who bought it for $1.25million 19 years ago

The flying kangaroo airline has now suffered $7billion worth of losses since the start of the pandemic in 2020 because of the Covid shutdowns, with the CEO describing the figures as ‘staggering’.

The first half of 2022 has been difficult for Qantas as flight demand returns to pre-pandemic levels only for an Omicron outbreak to cause massive delays at airports. 

In a stunning admission, Mr Joyce acknowledged Qantas had provided bad service as seven-day Covid isolation periods caused staff shortages. 

‘All of this resulted in well-publicised problems: long queues, delayed flights and misplaced bags,’ he said on Thursday.

‘It was incredibly tough for our people and deeply frustrating for our passengers.

‘It simply wasn’t good enough, and for that we have apologised.’

Qantas has posted a full-year underlying pre-tax loss of $1.859billion after state border closures hit its earnings.

This was even worse than the $1.774billion loss in the year to June 2021. 

‘These figures are staggering and getting through to the other side has obviously been tough,’ Joyce said. 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11180689/Qantas-Outsourcing-lead-major-incident-pilot-tells-ABC-Four-Corners.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Qantas: Outsourcing will lead to a major incident pilot tells ABC Four Corners

Bradford Betz

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