Qantas Faces Underpayment Allegations As Engineers’ Union Takes Them To Court

Published November 15, 2019 (last updated July 22, 2020)

Qantas may the next large brand to find itself subject to underpayment scrutiny, as the Australian Financial Review is reporting that the engineers’ union is taking the airline to court.

A statement of claim has been filed with the Federal Circuit Court, alleging that airline failed to progress 20 licenced aircraft maintenance engineers through the graded wage structure as outlined in their enterprise agreement.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers’ Association says that one engineer is owed more than $56,000 and that the final figure owed to workers may get into the millions.

“The total amount of wage underpayments may amount to over $10 million,” ALAEA federal secretary Steve Parvinas told the AFR.

Parvinas further added that there around a 1000 more ALAEA members who haven’t had their wages audited, and that figures cited in the filed claim don’t include unpaid shift or super payments.

Further, Parvinas also says he warned Qantas of potential underpayments, going back to 2013, in January last year.

“What kind of a society have we developed when a kid can get a criminal record for taking a candy bar from a store, while managers can knowingly keep millions in owed worker entitlements and walk free,” he said.

“The executives wouldn’t accept their wages late, yet these Qantas workers have to fight it out in a courtroom to get their owed entitlements.”

Qantas released a statement, saying that it is aware of potential errors in its HR system and that it has started addressing such errors.

“In this case, there is a complicated system that determines how our licensed engineers move between pay brackets. Errors in this system could result in a combination of under and overpayments to individuals,” Qantas said.

“In terms of the specific instances raised by the ALAEA in court documents, Qantas has already made adjustments to pay levels where required.

“What is at issue is the correct level of back pay, which Qantas has been working in good faith to determine but is now engaged in needless court proceedings over.”

Qantas names such as the Commonwealth Bank, Sunglass Hut, Bunnings, Wesfarmers’ Industrial Division, Super Retail Group (owner of Rebel Sport, BCF, Super Cheap Auto), Michael Hill Jewellers, and MJ Bale in coming under underpayment scrutiny this year.

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