Qantas slammed after asking staff to 'volunteer' over Christmas

Qantas has been accused of being a Grinch after asking employees to work for free over the holiday period.

In an email sent to staff by chief operating officer Rachel Yangoya, the Australian airline said it was "trialling a new volunteer program for our Campus-based people who'd like to lend a hand to the frontline in December and January" at Sydney Airport's international terminal.

"We require volunteers to assist at the self-service check-ins and auto bag drop area, bussing gates, concourse arrivals hall and at the transfer desk. The roles allocated to volunteers will depend on their preferences, skillset and security requirements."

The Australian Services Union (ASU) called it "wage theft" and a "shocking display of corporate greed, from one of Australia's biggest companies".

But Qantas, which made AU$980 million in profit in the recent financial year, insisted otherwise.

"This is not about cutting costs, this is about spreading a bit of Christmas cheer during a really busy period," a spokesperson told Buzzfeed News, which first revealed the email.

"It's unfortunate that the ASU is trying to turn this into a negative. It's all hands on deck at this time of year and we're really grateful that some head office staff are willing to lend a hand."

An email sent to Qantas staff.
An email sent to Qantas staff. Photo credit: Buzzfeed News/supplied

Qantas said it's mostly the airline's executives that offer to volunteer so they can learn more about what it's like working on the front line.

The ASU responded by saying bosses have "assumed that the work of women at the airport is so low-skilled that an untrained/unpaid volunteer could manage", because most of the customer service staff are women.

The union has threatened to take Qantas to the Fair Work Commission, Australia's equivalent of the Employment Relations Authority.

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