In brief

  • Employers facing unlawful industrial action in their businesses should consider legal remedies to recover any losses, following a significant decision of the Federal Court on Friday afternoon.
  • Freehills acted for Qantas in respect of proceedings issued against the TWU and various officials for claims including engaging in industrial action during the course of an operative enterprise agreement in breach of section 494 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth) (WR Act).
  • On 30 March 2009, various TWU officials held stop work meetings with employees at airports across Australia which resulted in the disruption of flights for thousands of passengers and loss and damage to Qantas.
  • The Federal Court ordered that the TWU pay compensation totalling $707,345 to Qantas, plus interest accruing from the date of the unlawful action.
  • In addition, the TWU and officials including Tony Sheldon were ordered to pay penalties to Qantas totalling $38,000.

In a significant decision in the industrial relations landscape, Qantas has been awarded compensation and the payment of penalties for unlawful strike action organised by the TWU in March 2009.

The honourable Justice Moore held that the TWU coordinated stoppages at four airports (Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) in contravention of section 494 of the WR Act.

The Federal Court ordered that:

  • the TWU pay compensation to Qantas of $707,345 within two months, plus interest calculated from the date of the stoppages
  • a penalty of $20,000 be imposed on the TWU in respect of its contravention of section 494(1) of the WR Act
  • penalties totalling $18,000 be imposed on officers of the TWU in respect of their contraventions of section 494(1) of the WR Act, and 
  • the penalties be paid direct to Qantas.