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FWO: Qantas Forced to back pay hundreds of workers millions of dollars after investigation

Qantas has been made to enter into a Court-Enforceable Undertaking to back pay hundreds of workers. After an investigation by the Fairwork Ombudsman it was found that the employees did not receive the minimum terms of the relevant enterprise agreements, including minimum wages, overtime, annual leave entitlements and superannuation, which led to underpayments and record-keeping breaches.

To date, Qantas has back paid $7.1m to 638 employees who were underpaid between June 2011 and June 2019. Head office staff in corporate and administration roles were affected.

The airline has paid interest on all back payments using an interest rate six per cent above the RBA cash rate, and an additional payment of $1,000 to affected workers, at a total of $2 million.

The investigation was held after Qantas come forward and admitted to breaching the Fair Work Act for several years and significantly underpaying hundreds of its employees several million dollars.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that the regulator considered an Enforceable Undertaking (EU )appropriate after Qantas proactively notified the FWO and fully cooperated with the investigation.

Under the EU, Qantas will set up an independent employee hotline and complaints system within 30 days. The airline will directly apologise to affected employees and place public notices on its intranet, website and Facebook page for one month, as well as in national newspapers.

“Viewed together, the back payment bill, interest paid on underpayments, additional payments made to impacted staff and contrition payment impose a significant cost on Qantas. These additional measures, along with the cost of an independent expert and future audits, help to level the playing field for businesses who have complied with workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.

The Australian Services Union has said the undertaking is nothing but a “slap on the wrist” for Qantas and an insult to ripped off workers.

The ASU said that this was not a misclassification or ‘bungle’ – it was a deliberate and systemic abuse of workers.

“Qantas deliberately put in place processes to avoid the enterprise bargaining agreement by abandoning the standard HR practice of having position descriptions attached to jobs, opening the door to underpayments.” Said Australian Services Union Assistant National Secretary Linda White.

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