Alan Joyce paid $21.4 million in past year, Qantas reveals

Qantas illegally sacked workers in pandemic, court rules

Qantas has revealed it paid its departing chief executive Alan Joyce $21.4 million in the past financial year.

The figure was revealed in the airline’s highly anticipated annual report on Wednesday afternoon.

It confirms Joyce’s final payout, $14.4 million of which could be clawed back by the board “if considered necessary”. That figure includes $8.3 million in previously awarded long-term bonuses, and a $2.2 million short-term bonus.

“While customer satisfaction levels improved during the year, they are well below where they should be,” Qantas chair Richard Goyder said in a statement.

“As a result, this part of the scorecard was judged at zero out of a possible 20 per cent and this had a corresponding impact on senior executive pay.”

Qantas has withheld all short-term bonuses for senior executives, including Joyce, while the ACCC investigates claims the airline sold tickets for on “ghost flights”.

Goyder said the airline’s board also acknowledged its role in the recent court ruling that Qantas had broken the law in sacking 1700 ground staff during the pandemic. But he said the commercial reasons remained sound.

“We regret that the circumstances in 2020 necessitated difficult decisions across much of our workforce, including the retrenchment of the 1700 workers involved. We will be working with the court on appropriate compensation,” he said.

Mr Joyce left the airline earlier in September, two months ahead of schedule, amid strife over the watchdog’s allegations and revelations about withheld pandemic flight credits.

His short-term incentives for the 12 months to the end of June – worth $2.2 million – are “at risk” and were cut by $500,000. Qantas will also look at clawing back part of the $8.3 million in long-term incentives awarded last month.

Qantas boss ordered into mediation talks

Wedesday’s release of the annual report came only hours after the Federal Court ordered Joyce’s replacement to personally get involved in talks with the Transport Workers Union to decide compensation for the 1700 workers who were illegally sacked.

Vanessa Hudson, who was parachuted into Qantas’ top job when Joyce exited early, will have to attend mediation with the head of the TWU, whose recent court win is partly responsible for the airline’s woes.

A week after the unanimous High Court judgment that the airline had illegally sacked hundreds of ground staff, cleaners and baggage handlers, Justice Michael Lee made orders in the Federal Court to move the matter towards resolution.

“There’s [1700] people whose lives have been affected, together with their families’,” Lee said.

He wants the issue resolved quickly, noting it has already been delayed by appeals, and calling for decision-makers to attend on the day.

Hudson will have to attend, as will TWU national secretary Michael Kaine. A date is expected to be set on Monday.

The union has said it will seek significant compensation for the sacked workers, as well as a large penalty in the vicinity of $100 million against Qantas.

Lee knocked back a push by Qantas’ barrister Richard Dalton KC to send the company’s in-house general counsel Andrew Finch in Hudson’s place.

Lee said he understood the busy schedules of Hudson and Kaine would present challenges, but he did not want only lawyers involved in the talks.

“I want the CEO and the person leading the union there,” he said.

The union’s barrister Mark Gibian SC also requested an employee representative from Qantas Airways and Qantas Ground Services be involved.

The airline outsourced the ground workers’ jobs in 2020 while it was losing billions of dollars as the pandemic decimated aviation.

Lee was concerned the talks might become unwieldy with too many attendees but indicated approval.

“If it’s two delegates and the union secretary, that would be the sort of scale I would anticipate as being appropriate,” he said.

Last week’s High Court decision added to Qantas’s ongoing reputational challenges.

“You’d have to be the equivalent of Rip Van Winkle not to see there has been some publicity,” Lee said, referring to the ruling.

Elsewhere, the airline faces action by the consumer watchdog seeking a $250 million fine, alleging it sold customers tickets on flights it had already cancelled.

Former CEO Joyce left the company two months early to “help the company accelerate its renewal”.

“The best thing I can do under these circumstances is to bring forward my retirement,” he said earlier in September.

Qantas posted an underlying profit of almost $2.5 billion for the 2022/23 financial year, almost as much as the $2.7 billion in government subsidies it received during the pandemic.

Amid criticism and perceptions the airline, privatised in the 1990s, remained too close to Canberra’s halls of power, Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie this month accused the government of running a “a protection racket for the most complained about company in our country”.

A parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday examined the Albanese government’s decision to block Qatar Airways’ bid for more flights. Qantas’ former chief economist Tony Webber told it that increased in-bound tourism could have been worth up to $1 billion.

However, Transport Minister Catherine King has said the rejection was made in the context of 13 Australian women being detained and forced to undergo invasive examinations at Doha’s international airport in 2020, after a baby was found abandoned in a bin.

– with AAP

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