Qantas sued over ‘discriminatory’ bonus scheme

Qantas’ decision to refuse a $2000 bonus to employees unless they sign on to new company-endorsed enterprise agreements has outraged unions who are looking to take the matter to court.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is launching legal action against Qantas claiming the company’s $67 million bonus scheme discriminates against workers covered by collective agreements, while delivering the cash immediately to managers.

The union argues the carrier’s bonus scheme pressures workers into accepting sub-par wages and conditions.

“Union members at Qantas are outraged at this decision and see it as a sign of disrespect,” said ACTU secretary Sally McManus.

“People working at Qantas have endured pay freezes and huge staff reductions. The company has lifted its financial performance on the back of their work, yet Qantas management want to use their bonus reward as leverage instead of recognition.”

In August last year, Qantas announced it would pay a $2000 cash bonus to full-time employees and $1500 to part-timers following its record $1.6 billion profit result. The airline paid the cash bonus to staff not on an agreement the following month.

But for the 27,000 covered by a collective agreement, the airline said it would only pay them the bonus if they signed up to their next agreement.

Qantas also warned that if one or more employees took any form of action that “harms” Qantas “all employees in the relevant work group will lose eligibility for the bonus”.

According to its application to Fair Work, the ACTU alleges Qantas is “deliberately” treating employees covered by collective agreements less favourably than those who are not by either delaying payment, and so reducing the bonus value in real terms, or denying them a bonus at all.

However, Qantas has warned it may simply use the money for dividends in the future following the union threat.

“This is ultimately shareholders’ money and the ACTU is doing a good job encouraging us to abandon these discretionary bonuses and simply return the money to shareholders in future,” a Qantas spokesman said.