Alan Joyce goes to ground on workplace lobbying as Qantas profits take off

A leadership race to replace Alan Joyce as CEO could be heating up.

A leadership race to replace Alan Joyce as CEO could be heating up. Photo: TND

Qantas boss Alan Joyce has declined to comment on reports he would meet Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to lobby against workplace reforms aimed at increasing wages.

The national carrier had earlier on Wednesday announced an expected $150 million increase in its half-yearly profit, which is now expected to be as much as $1.45 billion.

That represents an increase of $800 million to $1 billion on market expectations last month, when Qantas released its last upgraded earnings guidance to the stock exchange.

Mr Joyce has been roundly condemned by leading Labor figures after the airline sharpened its attacks on proposed workplace reforms aimed at lifting wages.

“He (Mr Albanese) should unequivocally condemn the disgusting anti worker tactics Joyce engages in,” former NSW Labor Senator Doug Cameron tweeted.

The meeting was revealed by News Corp but the Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to written questions while Qantas said it would not comment on its CEO’s engagements.

The airline told a Senate committee the passage of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay bill would set the aviation sector back 40 years, lead to routes being scrapped and set off “cascading” job losses across the economy.

In Question Time on Wednesday Transport Minister Catherine King did not respond in detail to a question about whether flight routes would be impacted if new workplace laws were passed.

“Had the previous government done what we suggested actually provide Job Keeper with an equity stake in Qantas we’d be making quite a bit of money at the moment,” Ms King said.

NSW Senator Tony Sheldon described Qantas on Wednesday as a “corporate gorilla” when asked about the PM’s reported meeting with Mr Joyce.

“The big corporate gorillas don’t want middle Australia getting wage increases,” he said.

Senator Sheldon then condemned what he said was a decision by Mr Joyce to move 1300 members of its workforce onto contracts that would not include compensation for overtime hours:

“He (Joyce) is the pointy end, he’s the sharp part of the knife that’s going into working people’s rights,” he said.

Government Services minister Bill Shorten told ABC RN Breakfast Qantas should leave wages policy to the government.

“Qantas play hardball on workplace relations. They’re entitled to their opinion and during COVID they’ve been doing remarkable things.

“But, you know, I’m going to leave Qantas to run an airline, but I don’t want them in charge of the wages system of this country.”

Qantas chairman Richard Goyder recently denied that a decision to outsource ground services had led to widespread complaints about baggage handling.

ACTU boss Sally McManus said Qantas had structured its business to “game” the current industrial relations system including the use of 21 external companies.

The government is committed to delivering its workplace changes amid protest from the business lobby and Opposition.

Debate is now centring on small business exemptions to the laws, which would allow workplace bargaining across employers and, the government says, boost pay and conditions.

“We’re currently in negotiations and discussing that,” Small Business Minister Julie Collins said on Wednesday.

Ms Collins says that an existing threshold, which would exempt any business with fewer than 15 employees, would exempt two million businesses from the laws.

A Senate committee has recommended raising that threshold to 20.

Qantas received support payments worth $1.2 billion in one year during the pandemic.

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