Refuellers to take action over unfair pay rates

Release date: 16/07/2010

The Australian newspaper has reported that  refuellers have threatened to proceed with a 24-hour strike at Sydney airport next week, potentially disrupting air travel.

The Transport Workers Union said yesterday it would go ahead with the strike next Wednesday at Airport Fuel Services (AFS) over a proposed pay deal that would see casual employees employed on rates lower than permanent staff.

The industrial action could disrupt domestic and international flights at Sydney airport, and potentially affect passengers at other airports.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Simon Crean last night called on the parties to attempt to resolve the dispute.

"We call on all parties to try and resolve this through negotiations in the framework provided by the Fair Work Act," a spokesman for Mr Crean said.

The union, which has won a ballot for protected industrial action, intends to apply today to Fair Work Australia for a conciliation hearing.

The union's federal secretary, Tony Sheldon, accused AFS of inflaming the dispute in the lead-up to the election in a bid to embarrass federal Labor and the union movement. "We believe it is a political and ideological agenda," he told The Australian.

AFS, which is owned by Qantas, BP, Caltex, and Mobil, had offered a 5 per cent pay rise to 24 full-time employees but not to 19 workers who are casual employees. The union has instead proposed all 43 employees receive a 3.5 per cent pay rise, but the offer has been rejected by the company.

"They are doing the same work, under the same conditions and under the same supervision," Mr Sheldon said.

"They're their workmates, their Aussie mates. It comes down to a minimalist cost to the companies when they are making tens of million of dollars out of this contract."

Mr Sheldon said the company had threatened the staff with a seven-day lockout, and he could not rule out further strikes if the dispute were not settled.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the company was "refusing to even talk to its employees". "Instead of trying to provoke industrial action, the company should return to the negotiating table," he said.


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