Qantas staff expected to work extra hours during Christmas for free
Australian-based airline Qantas has been slammed with criticism, after emailing its staff requesting them to volunteer extra hours at the airport during the busy Christmas period.
The Australian Services Union (ASU) has called the airline a “disgrace”, while accusing it of “wage theft at Christmas”. The leaked email to head office staff revealed that it asked staff to volunteer and “lend a hand” during Christmas.
“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.”
Denying that the programme was focused on “cutting costs”, the airline claimed 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 added.
Meanwhile, Natalie Lang, the New South Wales secretary of the ASU, accused Qantas of showcasing “shocking corporate greed”.
“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.” Lang 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 over the holiday break, “particularly because it’s a chance for them to spend more time with our customers and airport teams”.
“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,” a spokesman said.