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Qantas ordered to mediation talks over illegal sacking of 1700 ground staff

Qantas has been ordered to attend a month of mediation talks with the Transport Workers Union over the illegal sacking of nearly 1700 ground staff in late 2020.

Federal Court Justice Michael Lee, on Wednesday, ordered the airline and the union to move into mediation from next week under the guidance of the court’s former chief justice, James Allsop, in the hope of settling what could be the largest compensation orders issued under the Fair Work Act’s adverse action laws.

Qantas faces potential penalties and compensation estimated at $200 million.

“There are [1700] people whose lives have been affected, together with their families, and I wish to ensure that this matter is resolved as soon as I can,” Justice Lee was reported as telling the parties in the Federal Court on Wednesday.

He said the new Qantas CEO, Vanessa Hudson, had to be directly involved in the talks, and when counsel for Qantas tried to get her excused, media reports said Justice Lee pressed the airline over her direct involvement.

“I want the chief executive officer to be present, together with the person leading the union to be there,” Lee said. “That, in my view, like the many mediations that I’ve been involved in over many, many years, is appropriate in escalating it to an appropriate level to maximize the prospects of settlement.”

The Federal Court order follows the airline’s loss on appeal in the High Court a week ago when it tried (for a third time) to get a court ruling supporting its late 2020 sacking and move to outsource the jobs to a number of third-party companies.

Qantas shares were down nearly 0.4% at midday on Wednesday.

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