Qantas staff could be redeployed to Woolies and Telstra

Early long-service leave, staggered annual leave made available due to COVID-19 travel downturn

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce | Image credit: Qantas

Qantas Group staff could find themselves working temporarily for the likes of grocery giant Woolworths and telecommunications company Telstra after the Australian carrier this week confirmed that some 20,000 staff would be laid off during the coronavirus pandemic currently gripping the globe.

Last week, Qantas Group Chief Executive Alan Joyce announced sweeping changes to the airline’s global and domestic operations would be phased in this month and run through until September, which included grounding most of the airline’s A380s, trimming international capacity by 90%, delaying new routes and rerouting others.

Yesterday [Thursday 19 March, 2020], Joyce delivered even harder news, revealing that the company would temporarily pause the international operation of both Qantas and Jetstar from late March until at least the end of May, due to the government’s new overseas travel ban. Over 150 aircraft will be grounded temporarily, including its long-haul work engines: the Airbus A380, Boeing 747-400s and 787-9 Dreamliners, and Jetstar’s 787-8s.

Further Joyce confirmed that to preserve as many jobs as possible for the longer term, Qantas Group would be standing down the majority (two-thirds) of its 30,000 employees, until at least the end of May 2020.

Image credit: Qantas

In a letter to his workforce, Joyce said that “for many people, this will mean drawing down on substantial paid leave balances that have built up over many years.”

A range of extra-ordinary options are being drawn up for staff, including taking up to four weeks’ annual leave in advance to accruing it (where necessary), staggering annual leave to spread out payments and early access to long service leave (where eligible).

Those staff who are stood down will be able to: access accrued annual and long service leave immediately; seek alternative employment while retaining their job with Qantas; and access unemployment benefits while holding onto their job.

“We’re speaking to our partners like Woolworths about temporary job opportunities for our people, given the demand in supermarkets right now,” Joyce confirmed. “We are trying to spread the awful burden of what Coronavirus has meant for the Qantas Group.”

“Ultimately, the changes forces upon us by factors beyond our control are about ensuring public safety – which is at the heart of who we are. But that doesn’t make this news any easier. This is an incredibly difficult time for the national carrier and all of its people.”

According to the Australian Financial Review, Woolworths Chief Executive Brad Banducci told Joyce that he believes “there is a lot of alignment of customer service people. There are obviously Qantas customer service people who he would love to have working there,” Joyce said.

“Baggage handlers could help with stacking shelves. There are a lot of jobs which are pretty similar.”

The AFR also reported that Qantas Group staff redeployed during this period could potentially pick up work at Telstra and Australian mining juggernaut, Rio Tinto.

In his memo to staff, Joyce concluded saying “We will get through this. The outbreak will pass and people will want to fly again. The action we’re taking will make sure Qantas and Jetstar are there when that happens”.

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