Qantas workers asked to volunteer
Qantas is asking staff to volunteer their own time to boost the number of frontline workers at Sydney international airport during the busy summer holiday period.
An email sent to employees at Qantas’s Mascot headquarters yesterday outlined the “Christmas peak volunteer initiative” with a list of roles where staff could “lend a hand”.
“We require volunteers to assist the self-service check-in and auto bag drop area, bussing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk,” the email says. “The roles allocated to volunteers will depend on their preferences, skill set and security requirements.”
A table then detailed the volunteer roles available and level of security clearance needed, ranging from a Qantas staff pass to a current red aviation security identification card.
A Qantas spokesman said the initiative was not about cutting costs but “spreading a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period”.
“We always scale up with additional paid staff over the peak holiday period,” he said.
“And we also ask head office employees if they’d like to lend a hand, which is a mix of their own time and company time.”
He said it was typically executives who volunteered because it was a chance for them to spend more time on the frontline.
“Volunteer tasks include handing out bottles of water and Christmas chocolates to passengers at airports and helping people find their way around the terminal,” said the spokesman, adding that so far the response had been very good.
The Australian Services Union, which posted the email on social media, described the call for volunteers as “corporate greed and wage theft”.
ASU NSW branch secretary Natalie Lang said the idea that people “just love working and not being paid is atrocious and completely inaccurate”.
“They’re saying it’s all voluntary but we know that people often feel pressured to volunteer when they’re trying to get ahead and have a great career,” Ms Lang said.
She said it was “not like Qantas was setting up a soup kitchen at the international terminal and asking staff to help feed the hungry and homeless”.
“This is the time of year when charities and community organisations often look to people in the community for help to provide support to those in need,” Ms Lang said.
“Those organisations are now competing with Qantas for volunteers at Christmas time.”
She urged Qantas to withdraw the request immediately and commit to paying staff for extra duties over Christmas.
“The other thing is those roles are jobs that people currently employed by Qantas do.’’
The reaction on social media was generally one of disbelief, as people questioned whether the email was fake. “I’m hoping it’s just a badly worded way of getting people to take on extra (paid) shifts and it’s all a misunderstanding. Hoping,” said Fiona Moore on the ASU’s Facebook page.
Qantas made a record profit of $1.6 billion in the 2018 financial year.
‘We know that people often feel pressured to volunteer when they’re trying to get ahead’ NATALIE LANG AUSTRALIAN SERVICES UNION