Australia’s Qantas Airways Faces Sex Discrimination Claims <


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Australia’s Qantas Airways Faces Sex Discrimination Claims

Bill Goldston

March 4, 2010 - The Transport Workers Union (TWU) in Australia has filed an application for a general protections dispute with Fair Work Australia that seeks to reverse a recent decision by Qantas to bar all women from 47 new permanent positions created at Sydney Airport. Qantas recently replaced 67 temporary positions with 47 permanent staff after it merged its cabin cleaning and ground handling operations at its international division. 

The TWU will argue that Qantas indirectly and directly discriminated against the 14 sacked female employees because Qantas froze all the women out from retraining while male employees were offered that opportunity, and subsequently hired. “I’ve been working faithfully for Qantas,” sacked worker Jessica Wang said. “We thought we would be rewarded with a permanent job, Qantas has slammed the door on us.” 


TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said the move illustrated a cascading culture of impunity in Qantas. “Where is the accountability at our national airline? The airline’s growing culture is one where they believe they are not accountable to the law, not accountable to employees, not accountable to passengers, and not accountable to shareholders. Qantas is running a bubblegum HR operation: employees are chewed up and spat out. These fourteen women, these breadwinners for Australian families, are bravely standing up for women at Qantas and every woman in Australia. 

“The Australian community will not tolerate their mothers and sisters and daughters being thrown on the scrapheap simply because they are women. In denying justice to these women, our national airline stands condemned before the Australian community. Women face considerable barriers to greater participation in the workforce. The union movement is committed to structural changes to remove these obstacles, such as better childcare, flexible working arrangements and pay equity. 

But employers must lift their game, and the behavior of Qantas is disgraceful. We are steadfastly committed to ensuring that all forms of discrimination at work are eliminated. Qantas is an Australian icon, and I expect them to play a lead role in providing a workplace that is free from discrimination. The new Fair Work Act provides for the fast resolution of this kind of dispute and I expect the independent umpire take a hard stand on this kind of outdated behavior. If the CEO isn’t prepared to step in and ensure some common sense in this matter then the independent umpire should ensure that these women get a fair go.” ACTU President Sharan Burrow said.

Qantas has reported that any type of discrimination it is against their company policies. “More than 40 per cent of Qantas employees are women," Qantas has further stated the employees in question were hire on a temporary basis. Their employment contracts were due to expire at the end of 2009 and early 2010. A company spokesperson stated that it is also important to point out that it was not just female workers who had their contracts terminated. 

Qantas Airways is the national airline of Australia. Nicknamed "The Flying Kangaroo", the airline is based in Sydney, with its main hub at Sydney Airport. It is Australia's largest airline and is the world's second oldest airline. Qantas is headquartered in the Qantas Centre in the Mascot suburb of the City of Botany Bay, Sydney, New South Wales. In 2009, Qantas was voted the sixth best airline in the world by research consultancy firm Skytrax, a drop from 2008 (third), 2007 (fifth), 2006 (second), and 2005 (second).

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