July 2, 2019

TWU fights Swissport over poverty wages at airports

The Transport Workers’ Union is fighting fight poverty conditions faced by thousands of airport workers as ground services company Swissport/Aerocare attempts to get approval for a substandard enterprise agreement.

The agreement allows the scandal-ridden company to underpay its baggage handlers, airline cleaners, caterers, drivers, check-in staff millions of dollars in rates, shift penalties and allowances and does not meet the better-off-overall test, the TWU will tell the Fair Work Commission today.

The TWU’s move follows a successful challenge to an equally substandard enterprise agreement in 2017. The TWU is also challenging Swissport/Aerocare’s current agreement, which dates back to 2012, which has impoverished its workers, forcing them to sleep at airports because of low rates and grueling split shifts.

“Swissport/Aerocare has for years ripped off its workers with below award payments, leaving them utterly struggling. They are guaranteed just 60 hours per month and are kept constantly desperate for more hours. Because of the low rates and lack of hours, they are forced to work split shifts with lengthy waits between them, resulting in workers sleeping behind baggage carousels and in their cars. This agreement will reinforce this exploitation and allow it to continue for four more years,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

The agreement will allow workers to be underpaid on Sundays and during early morning and night shifts. Workers on split shifts are paid ordinary rates, despite the award stating that shifts must be continuous and that if an employee is recalled to work after leaving a shift they must be paid overtime. TWU analysis shows on average workers on split shifts are underpaid as much as $16 an hour.

“This agreement isn’t just bad for Swissport/Aerocare workers, it is bad for all airport workers and for travelling passengers. It allows a low bar to be set for how workers are treated at our airports and this low bar means that fairness and safety are simply not prioritised. We have already seen safety and security incidents involving Swissport/Aerocare workers over the years. We can expect these to increase if this agreement is approved,” he added.

Swissport/Aerocare has been exposed after footage showed staff were forced to sleep at airports. The company has also been exposed over:

  • High injury rates among staff. At Sydney International Airport there were 132 injury incidents among a staff of 324 over a one-year period.
  • Security incidents, including passengers at Perth airport allowed airside to collect their baggage after a baggage handler was left alone to unload an entire aircraft
  • Staff being forced back to work while still injured
  • Managers accompanying injured staff into doctors’ surgeries during appointments
  • Broken and faulty equipment in use around aircraft and passengers

Airport workers and the TWU have filed a claim on all major airports demanding an end to conditions such as those endured by workers at Swissport/Aerocare. The claim demands the same rate for doing the same job; secure work with regular hours; quality and ongoing training; and safety and security as a number one priority, rather than a focus on engaging work to be carried out for the lowest cost possible.

“The four main airports in Australia made over $2.2 billion profit last year according to the ACCC. This profit is being made off the back of ripped off workers. We are demanding fairness and we want airports to hold the likes of Swissport/Aerocare to account for how they treat their staff,” Kaine added.

Click here for info on Swissport/Aerocare breaches

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