Qantas executives back ‘restraint’ during Senate fair work inquiry after CEO Alan Joyce pockets pay rise

Qantas says no other ASX-listed company showed the same “restraint” on executive pay after Alan Joyce pocketed an estimated 15% pay rise.

The airline’s chief executive won $2.17 million in the last financial year and received a total of $5.5 million, including more than $3 million in free shares that can be sold if Qantas achieves a profit by August 2023.

Two of the national carrier’s top executives have defended Mr Joyce’s salary package amid widespread customer service issues that have damaged the airline’s reputation.

Qantas Group Corporate Affairs Director Andrew McGinnes and General Counsel Andrew Finch were put in the hot seat during a Senate investigation on Wednesday.

Mr McGinnes told the hearing: ‘You won’t find a business in Australia or certainly not one on the ASX that has exercised the restraint of Qantas.

“The CEO’s salary is down 80% from pre-Covid-19,” he said.

“The driver of CEO compensation before Covid-19 was the huge appreciation in share price due to the company doing extremely well after it didn’t, not least because of the competitive pressures we’re facing. we face.”

Mr Joyce was the only serving chief executive of an ASX-listed top 100 company not to have received a bonus in the past two financial years, according to a report by the Australian Pension Investors Council.

He was regularly Australia’s highest-paid CEO before the pandemic and his rise last year is believed to be due to his base salary returning to its standard level.

Mr Joyce oversaw an aggressive cost-cutting strategy during his 14 years at the helm of Qantas, which included laying off thousands of staff during the pandemic.

Many of these employees were rehired or replaced by outsourcing to internal shell companies and external labor hire firms.

Among them were 1,700 baggage handlers whose dismissal was found to be unlawful and partly motivated by the fact that many Qantas ground staff were union members with greater bargaining power.

The airline is trying to challenge this decision in the High Court.

Mr McGinnes and Mr Finch insisted on Wednesday that the strategy of outsourcing staff and hiring new workers on “modern” rewards was necessary for the carrier’s “survival”.

They said the survey employing staff on “legacy” terms would result in “completely uncompetitive” terms that would inflate airfares.

Mr Finch said Qantas’ use of external labor recruitment companies was simply a method of ‘managing resource requirements’ and that casual workers were paid more than permanent workers.

He said that in “most cases” these employees appreciated the flexibility offered by casual work.

“So it’s a lose-lose situation from our perspective,” he said.

Mr McGinnes claimed ‘no one is trying to take away’ existing ‘grandfathered’ wages and conditions from longer serving employees.

He said no Qantas employee had had their pay “substantially reduced”.

Asked about a recent string of security breaches at Swissport, which provides baggage handling services for Qantas, Mr McGinnes accused the Transport Workers Union of trying to create an “ah ha moment”.

“The reason this file exists is because it’s a company trying to improve safety, like everyone in aviation is trying to do,” he said.

“It’s disappointing that sometimes these efforts to speak candidly inside these companies…are taken out of context as ‘look at this terrible list of things’.”

Incidents at Swissport, revealed by NCA NewsWire, included firearms left on arrival carousels, dangerous goods carried on undocumented planes, damaged planes and staff working while injured.

Mr McGinnes and Mr Finch made their remarks during an inquiry into a bill to change the Fair Work Act.

The changes would require hired workers covered by certain modern rewards to be offered the same or higher rates of pay as directly employed workers.

The Senate committee responsible for examining the bill is due to issue its final report on October 24.

Read related topics:ASX Qantas

Norman D. Briggs