Qantas has been accused of underpaying staff at Sydney Airport for years, a claim it rejects.
The Australian Services Union NSW & ACT branch confirmed to news.com.au on Tuesday it was in a dispute with the airline over the payment of workers, after a letter, dated Tuesday last week, was obtained by 2GB on Monday, accusing Qantas of paying some workers a Level 4 salary instead of a Level 5 salary.
A worker told Ben Fordham’s radio program the difference was $73,000 and $66,000 a year.
The union said it was “concerned that Qantas may have breached an historical agreement regarding the appropriate wage rates for a number of staff working in passenger services at Sydney airport” in a statement provided to news.com.au.
“We have lodged a dispute as part of a standard process to formally raise the matter with Qantas, and will be meeting with them shortly to further discuss our concerns,” it said.
“We expect all members working at Qantas to be paid correctly and in accordance with the company’s agreements with the ASU.
“Should Qantas management not respond in good faith to resolve this issue and ensure our members are paid properly, we reserve the right to escalate the matter to the Fair Work Commission.”
Qantas said no employees had been underpaid.
In the letter, ASU argued “the function of Oscar/Departure A” needed to be reclassified to Level 5, which had previously been reclassified to Level 4 in about 2008.
“As the ASU contends the function has been misclassified, the ASU also seeks back pay for any affected employee who has been incorrectly classified at ASU Level 4 or any substantive ASU Level 3 who has fulfilled Oscar/Departure A functions through Higher Duties,” the letter said, requesting a response from Qantas by 5pm on Tuesday, October 3.
The alleged underpayment of employees appears to have been raised following recent discussions where Qantas proposed to reclassify some employees at Sydney Airport from Level 4 to Level 3, according to the letter.
It stated this proposal, which the ASU did not support, followed a Qantas review that found the Arrival & Departure function was classified as Level 4 at Sydney International Terminal while the function was classified at Level 3 at other Australian airports.
news.com.au understands Qantas has received the letter and plans to try and work through the matter with the union.
The allegations come after a turbulent few months for the national airline.
Last week, Qantas chief executive Vanessa Hudson and chair Richard Goyer fronted a marathon three and a half-hour senate committee hearing where they were grilled about contentious topics including Qantas’ connection to the Yes campaign, slot hoarding at Sydney Airport, and the Australian Government’s decision to reject Qatar Airways’ request for more flights into Australia.
The decision has been slammed as a move to protect Qantas, which opposed the application, from competition.
Last month, Qantas lost its battle to overturn a Federal Court ruling that it illegally sacked almost 1700 workers and outsourced their jobs during the pandemic.
Only the week before, former CEO Alan Joyce walked away from the top job two months early so the airline could “move ahead with its renewal” under new management.
Ms Hudson, who was the company’s chief financial officer, took over the role.
That surprise move followed the consumer watchdog launching action in the Federal Court seeking to penalise the airline by more than $250 million for allegedly selling sale tickets for already-cancelled flights.
Also in August, Qantas announced it would scrap the expiry date on at least $470 million in Covid travel credits, following intense questioning of Mr Joyce for a separate senate inquiry and public backlash.
The Qantas Group posted an underlying profit before tax of $2.47 billion for the 2023 financial year.