Qantas chairman Richard Goyder under pressure to quit

Pressure is mounting on Richard Goyder before his scheduled appearance at a make-or-break Senate hearing that could decide the embattled Qantas chairman’s future.

The Qantas, AFL and Woodside chairman is facing calls from union officials to resign from his position with the airline, and pave the way for a new direction and new leadership.

Michael Kaine, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, on Sunday called for the board to be spilled and Qantas to strip former CEO Alan Joyce of his $24 million bonus after the company was found to have illegally sacked 1700 employees by the High Court.

“The Joyce regime has been toppled, but the airline cannot achieve the reset necessary for its survival under the same board that presided over the largest case of illegal sackings in Australian corporate history,” Kaine said.

“Richard Goyder cannot make it through another day as chair.”

Goyder will appear before a bipartisan committee on September 26 and is likely to face questions about the government’s decision to block Qatar Airways request for increased capacity, plus other controversies plaguing the flying kangaroo.

Mark Humphery-Jenner, a corporate governance expert and associate professor of finance at the University of NSW, said the hearing could decide Goyder’s future as chairman.

“If there’s something negative that comes out, if he puts his foot in it and there’s more issues about the trade unions that come out, or if he discloses something we don’t know in relation to the flight cancellations, it could absolutely make things worse,” Humphery-Jenner said.

“It could also undermine Qantas’s public image, which will further feed into customers potentially … [moving] from Qantas and going to Virgin, which covers many of the same routes.”

Rising pressure

Steve Purvinas, national secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), sent a letter to Goyder and new Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson taking aim at the airline’s decision to engage consultants to review business practices.

“The direction of Qantas must change. If the Qantas board of directors do not understand the problems there must be boardroom change,” read the letter, first reported in The Daily Telegraph.

“If Qantas engages Boston Consulting Group, we call on you to resign your position as Qantas chairman without delay.”

Purvinas and the ALAEA were contacted for comment.

It isn’t just unions and industry bodies taking aim at Goyder, with an ongoing Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation into the company selling tickets to cancelled flights, and the dwindling public perception of the Qantas brand hanging over the chairman.


Qantas faces pressure from unions, the public, media and Australia’s consumer watchdog. Photo: Getty

Humphery-Jenner said while the board doesn’t control operations at the airline, it is “supposed to have safeguards, processes and mechanisms in place to deter bad behaviour”.

“It continues to build up and presents a narrative that the board is perhaps not as active as they need to be,” he said.

“The board has sought very short-term profit at the expense of medium-term profit.”

Former CEO Alan Joyce quickly exited the company early after his disastrous appearance at a Senate hearing, where he was grilled over the price of airfares, COVID-19 flight credits and claims the company is being protected by the government.

Qantas’s future

Any hope of Hudson escaping attention while Goyder and Joyce take the heat is unlikely without a new board, and Kaine said all eyes will be on her and how she responds to the High Court’s verdict.

“Illegally sacked workers are owed an apology and an end to Qantas’ attempts to delay paying compensation and penalties,” he said.

“Hudson must reverse the destructive business model at Qantas that has exploited or attempted to manufacture loopholes to axe and outsource essential workers to 38 different entities.”

CEO Vanessa Hudson has been left to clean up Alan Joyce’s mess. Photo: AAP

Despite Hudson being employed by the company since 1994, Humphrey-Jenner said if Goyder walks away from the board it will make it easier for her to manage public perceptions and have a clean slate.

“Realistically, the Qantas board is very likely to remain in place until the next general meeting,” he said.

“It is very unlikely the board or the chair would resign unless something particularly egregious comes up or there is overwhelming pressure from the government.”

The next Qantas general meeting will be held in early November.

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