February 3, 2022


Three quarters of Qantas cabin crew say they would have to find a new job to pay the bills if the airline succeeds in terminating their enterprise agreement, according to a new survey released on the two-year anniversary of Australia’s first repatriation flights to Wuhan.

The FAAA-TWU survey of over 1300 cabin crew has revealed the extent of the financial and mental toll on workers from two years of stand-downs and Qantas attacking pay and conditions, with workers facing an average hourly rate cut of 41% should the airline succeed in its latest assault on workers.

One in eight workers said they’ve had to move out of their home, while the stress has caused one in nine to suffer relationship breakdowns. Mental health had declined for 81% of crew, with 33% needing professional help or medication and 15% saying they’d had suicidal thoughts.

Around three quarters have been a flight attendant for 10 years or more, while almost half have over 20 years’ experience. Several recounted times they’ve saved lives in medical emergencies, performed CPR, administered oxygen, helped women miscarrying on board, and restrained violent passengers.

Qantas applied to terminate the enterprise agreement after workers almost unanimously voted down a proposed new agreement that would have cut pay and conditions for some workers and doubled standby times in rosters, during which workers can be called in at 90 minutes notice for long periods away from home.

Over 90% said they voted against the proposal because of its impact on work/life balance, while 80% were concerned they’d have to work longer hours for less money. Due to roster uncertainty, 61% said they’d need to go part-time or leave their jobs to manage childcare or other caring responsibilities, while 80% said they were concerned fatigue would impair their ability to respond to an emergency.

FAAA Federal Secretary Teri O’Toole called on Qantas management to read the full survey results before proceeding with its nuclear approach to terminate the agreement.

“Today, hundreds of families are back together thanks to the sacrifices made by Qantas cabin crew. These volunteers put on their PPE during a global pandemic and ran towards the fire, as they are trained to do as aviation’s first responders. Now, they’re fighting fires to save their pay and conditions.

“Workers don’t want credit, or letters of thanks from Morrison. They want a fair agreement that allows them to see their kids and keep a roof over their head. The fact that 33% of workers saw their pay increase when they found alternate employment during the pandemic shows that cabin crew are extremely undervalued and are not greedy workers.

“Every worker is entitled to work/life balance, job security and financial stability, no less the heroes of the pandemic. We’re ready to get back to the table and negotiate a fair deal and call on Qantas to do the same,” she said.

TWU Assistant National Secretary Nick McIntosh said Qantas management is on a mission to clear out workers who’ve built up reasonable standards and safe conditions over years of collective bargaining.

“This Qantas management team will not rest until every unionised worker is driven out by force, fear or famine. These are deliberate gun-to-head tactics to pressure workers into agreeing to terms that would shatter their family lives or else take such a hit to their pay they’d have to walk out on jobs they’ve done with pride for decades.

“This war on workers will have many casualties. The devastation to hardworking families, loss of skill and security for aviation, risk to passenger safety, and impact on the economy and covid recovery, show exactly why the Attorney General’s department should use its powers to intervene.

“The Federal Government and Qantas sent thank you letters and certificates to cabin crew volunteers bringing stranded Australians home. Two years on, Qantas management is scheming against its crew, and the Federal Government is backing them with millions in taxpayer welfare,” he said.

In 2020, aviation lost 12,500 highly trained workers through redundancies and illegal outsourcing by Qantas.

In July, the Federal Court found Qantas illegally outsourced its ground crew to prevent them bargaining and taking industrial action. Appeal dates are set for 24th February.

Last year, the Qantas executive team took home over $13 million in base pay between them. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce earned a pay rise to $2 million, while the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors’ annual report on CEO pay showed Joyce earned a total ‘realised pay’ package of $10.74 million in FY2020.

Click here for survey results and worker quotes

Click here for union letter calling on the Attorney General to intervene

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