Qantas australia

Qantas executives should not be paid bonuses or shareholder dividends until its financial position is stable, new research claims. Courtesy: AAP

Casino operator Star Entertainment is the latest company to announce that more than 8000 employees will be stood down, with more than 20,000 workers stood down today after Virgin Australia and retailers announced similar moves.

Star Entertainment has stood down more than 8000 workers as the coronavirus pandemic unleashes a tidal wave of job losses.

Star, which operates casinos in Sydney and Brisbane, will stand down 90 per cent of its 9000 strong workforce.

Its decision follows Virgin Australia also announcing this morning it will stand down 8000 workers while the retail group behind Rivers, Katies, Noni B and Millers will close its stores and stand down 6800 staff.

The three major employers have today announced stand downs of 22900 workers.

More pain is set to come with Crown Resorts – Victoria’s largest single-site employer – yet to decide what actions it will take with its staff after its operations were shut.

Star chief executive Matt Bekier said the business was confronting an unprecedented situation.

“We have incredible people at The Star and huge potential. We are also confronting, like the rest of society, an unprecedented challenge in the

COVID-19 situation,”

VIRGIN WORKERS STOOD DOWN AS DOMESTIC ROUTES SLASHED

Virgin Australia has stood down about 8,000 of its 10,000 workers and further slashed its domestic flight capacity, including immediately suspending all Tigerair flights.

The airline this morning said it was cutting its domestic capacity by 90 per cent, up from a 50 per cent reduction announced last week.

Tigerair flights have been suspended immediately while the latest suspension of Virgin’s domestic flights will come into effect from midnight Friday.

The suspensions will last until June 14.

Virgin has already dropped all international flights.

The latest cuts mean Virgin will grounded 125 planes by the end of the week.

Virgin chief executive Paul Scurrah said the airline was facing “what will be the biggest grounding of aircraft in this country’s history”.

“There has never been a travel environment in Australia as restrictive as the one we see today and the extraordinary steps we’ve taken have been in response to the federal and state governments latest travel advice,” he said.

“We plan to return Tigerair Australia and Virgin Australia to the skies as soon as it’s viable to do so, however I am mindful that how we operate today may look different when we get to the other side of this crisis.

The airline’s workers will be stood down until at least the end of May.

Staff will be able to access accrued leave entitlements but the company said leave without pay was “inevitable” for many.

“I am only too aware of how much our people are hurting at the moment and these very tough decision have weighed heavily on me,” Mr Scurrah said.

The travel sector has been plunged into chaos with Qantas standing down 20,000 workers and travel booking agencies such as Flight Centre and Helloworld Travel closing stores and standing down and sacking workers.

VIRGIN’S BOSS SEEKS PROBE INTO QANTAS BAILOUT

Virgin Australia’s boss has formally written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, accusing Qantas of trying to block the possibility of the Federal Government bailing out the airline during the coronavirus crisis.

In an email leaked to the ABC, Virgin Australia chief executive Paul Scurrah labelled Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce’s behaviour as “very disappointing”.

Mr Scurrah also confirmed he had reported his concerns to the consumer watchdog. The ACCC has so far not commented on the matter, according to the ABC.

“I am in daily discussions with Government to ensure we get the support we need to get through this and have been advocating on behalf of Virgin Australia Group and the industry as a whole,” Mr Scurrah said in an email, according to the ABC.

“I have today written a letter to Rod Sims, chairman of the ACCC, to investigate public commentary and an industry-wide campaign that is designed to ensure a lessening of competition in the aviation sector.”

It came after Mr Joyce said the Government should not choose “winners and losers” in the airline crisis, and claimed it was not Canberra’s role to bankroll airlines that had been “badly managed”, according to Sky News.

Meantime, the Transport Workers’ Union said half of the 1,038 respondents of a new study believed Qantas should be nationalised if the coronavirus crisis worsens.

The TMU cited a YouGov poll, which suggested the public was “very supportive” of the Federal Government’s relief to airlines, with 68 per cent saying they agreed with the $715 million assistance package.

The research also showed that 80 per cent of respondents believed Qantas executives should not be paid bonuses or shareholder dividends until its workers are “paid back the accrued and future leave the company is forcing them to take”.

The overwhelming majority believed Qantas workers should not have to take unpaid leave.

QANTAS STANDS DOWN STAFF AS CRISIS ESCALATES

Last week, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce defended his decision to stand down 20,000 workers.

But Qantas will allow workers to access long service leave early, and those who have exhausted their annual leave will be able to take up to four weeks in advance.

“This is the worst crisis the aviation industry has gone through. I know for the economy it’s probably going to be a lot worse than the GFC,” Mr Joyce said last week.

“We’re not making people redundant and we’re trying this mechanism to make sure we can get through and survive and they have a job at the end of the day.”

Mr Joyce, who’s Australia’s highest-paid chief executive, himself is also prepared to take no salary beyond the end of this financial year. He’s currently taking no pay.

“None of us are getting paid while this is going on,” he told ABC radio.

Mr Joyce thinks Qantas may be able to get through the crisis without any redundancies.

He also flagged the possibility of rescue missions to bring Australians stranded overseas back to home soil.

“If we can find locations where there are enough Australians to get them on the aircraft … [a possibility is to] get them to hubs and get them home,” he told 3AW.

Joyce flagged Los Angeles, San Francisco and Johannesburg as areas with a large number of Australians.

“In theory you should be able to get everyone back,” he said.

When asked if the government should chip in to help get stranded Australians home, Joyce said: “Yes.”

“We can’t burn cash,” he said.

“We’re trying to help as much as we can.”

Joyce also revealed that a number of Qantas staff had tested positive for coronavirus, but stressed that those people had contracted the disease from living or travelling overseas.

“There’s no known case worldwide of a customer contracting coronavirus on an aircraft,” he said.

But his also warned the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak would likely result in a “significant recession”, globally and domestically.

The airline made an $891 million profit in 2018/19 but, like its competitors, has been decimated by the spread of the virus and escalating lockdown measures.

The flying kangaroo has been grounded with Qantas and Jetstar now axing all international flights and standing down two thirds of its workforce.

More than 160 aircraft will be grounded including all of its big A380s and 747s with 60 per cent of domestic flights already cut.

Mr Joyce said: “With the huge drop in revenue we’re facing, we have to make difficult decisions to guarantee the future of the national carrier.”

“This is a terrible day,” he said. “I never thought as the national CEO that I would have to stand down two thirds of our people.”

Mr Joyce said “this is the biggest crisis aviation has ever gone through” and that tough decisions were being taken to ensure the national carrier was ready to ramp up when the crisis passes.

“The reality is we’ll have 150 aircraft on the ground and sadly there’s no work for most of our people,” Mr Joyce said.

Pilots and crew of all the wide bodied aircraft – the A380s, 747s and 787s – were among those being stood down with their aircraft among those being parked and “put to sleep” at airport gates around the nation.

“Rather than lose these highly skilled employees who we’ll need when this crisis passes, we are instead standing down two-thirds of our 30,000 employees until at least the end of May,” Mr Joyce said.

“Most of our people will be using various types of paid leave during this time, and we’ll have a number of support options in place.”

Those options include taking a month’s leave in advance at half pay. But some workers will end up with no pay and the airline is helping them find temporary work.

Mr Joyce said last week that Woolworths boss Brad Banducci had contacted him to see if Qantas hosties could work in customer service and baggage handlers could stock shelves until the airline was back in the air.

Qantas has an annual wages bill of more than $4 billion. Senior executives and the board have now joined Mr Joyce in taking no pay until the end of the financial year. Bonuses have also been axed.

The airline’s freight planes will continue to fly internationally and Qantas is keeping the door open to flying non-scheduled international passenger flights if they are needed.

“There are a lot of expat Australians around the globe that are allowed back into the country,” Mr Joyce said. It was possible the government might need some services to London or Los Angeles to get people home.

The airline has designed the cut in domestic flights to reduce frequency but leave no area of the country cut off.

Among the staff still working is a team dedicated to planning how to restart the airline once the crisis passes. Mr Joyce said the airline intended to get every one of its planes back in the air.

“This is survival of the fittest,” he said. “Airlines in this region will go under, Qantas will not be one of them.”