Job retention is a crucial topics the world is tackling head on, as lockdowns continue around the globe. Australia’s effort, JobKeeper has proven to be a success thus far, but an an amendment to eligibility has created a massive quarrel between Emirates and the country, creating new viability concerns for Emirates’ Australian routes, if challenges aren’t dealt with.

The Beef

Dnata is a ground services company owned by The Emirates Group, which means it’s owned by the Government of Dubai, and the UAE. According to industry news site Paddle Your Own Kanoo, Dnata has 4,500 local employees in Australia serving a variety of ground handling roles not only for Emirates, but many other airlines as well.

When the Australian Government announced the job retention scheme, Dnata workers were included, but an amendment to the job scheme now excludes foreign owned businesses. In the eyes of the Australian Government, it’s the business of the foreign entity or their government to sort out, not theirs, even though the business employees thousands of tax paying Australians.

On this news, the Emirates Group decided to play hardball, noting that it creates an entirely uneven playing field for catering and ground services companies, which directly impacts competition. Dnata does already own Qantas’ catering.

“The exclusion of Dnata from the JobKeeper scheme puts over 4,500 jobs at risk while leaving employees and their families without an income with extremely short notice. As a result, we are also forced to review medium, and long term viability of Dnata’s various Australian businesses including catering, grounding handling, retail and hospitality.”

The move from the Australian Government highlights the sensitivities of sweeping policy declarations, which while well intended, can often lead to negative outcomes. Clearly, Dnata would be a logical choice for an exception to the rule, but there’s no telling if one will come. If it doesn’t, the Emirates Group will be left with the brutal reality of 4,500 employees at long term risk, and the future of flying in Australia in bumpy skies.

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