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Aviation

Qantas ‘Grinch act’ asks staff to work extra hours for free over Christmas

  • Airline denied programme was aimed at cutting costs, insisting it was about ‘spreading a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period’
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 December, 2018, 11:28am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 December, 2018, 10:04pm

Qantas has faced heavy criticism after the airline sent an email to staff asking them to volunteer time at the airport during its busiest period over Christmas.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) has described the carrier as a “disgrace” and accused it of “wage theft at Christmas”. In the email to head office staff, which was leaked on Friday, the airline asked workers to volunteer to “lend a hand” during the holiday period.

“To support our airport teams at [Sydney] over the 2018 peak Christmas travel period, we’re trialling a new volunteer programme for our Campus-based people who’d like to lend a hand to the frontline in December and January,” the email said. “We require volunteers to assist at the self-service check-ins and auto bag drop area, busing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk. The roles allocated to volunteers will depend on their preferences, skill set and security requirements.”

Qantas posted over US$1.6 billion in profit … it’s charging Christmas rates … and has the audacity to ask its lowest paid workers to work for free
Natalie Lang, ASU

Qantas denied the programme was aimed at cutting costs, saying in a statement it was about “spreading a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period”.

“We always scale up with additional paid staff over the peak holiday period. And we also asked head office employees if they’d like to lend a hand,” it said in a statement.

But the New South Wales secretary of the ASU, Natalie Lang, accused the airline of displaying “shocking corporate greed” and a “Grinch act”.

“Qantas posted over US$1.6 billion in profit this year, it’s charging Christmas rates to passengers, and has the audacity to ask its lowest paid workers to work for free at Christmas. It’s a Grinch act of the highest order.” she said. “Let’s be clear, this isn’t volunteering. This is wage theft. But workers are being asked to choose between ‘volunteering’ for their employer or their local charity.”

Qantas said executives traditionally volunteered their time over the Christmas break, “particularly because it’s a chance for them to spend more time with our customers and airport teams”.

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“Volunteer tasks include handing out bottles of water and Christmas chocolates to passengers at airports, and helping people find their way around the terminal,” a spokesman said. “It’s unfortunate that the ASU is trying to turn this into a negative. It’s all hands on deck at this time of year and we’re really grateful that some head office staff are willing to lend a hand.”