Workers protested at airports today over their refusal to act on demands to address unsafe and unfair working conditions, including unacceptable levels of sexual harassment.
Baggage handlers, drivers, airline caterers, cleaners, cabin crew, security staff, refuellers, customer service and check-in staff have served claims on all major airports several months ago. But airports are refusing to deal with low wages, lack of full-time secure jobs and safety issues that workers face.
Many airport workers are paid below award rates and are kept for years on part-time work, some guaranteed as few as 60 hours a month.
“Airport workers have been clear about their demands: they want decent jobs that allow them to support their families, they want safe jobs so they are not at risk of injury or harassment and they want to get paid the same rate for carrying out the same job, regardless of which company they work for. Workers want airports to take responsibility for this and to stop passing the buck down the line. Airports make profits because workers in their supply chain are made to struggle through downgraded jobs. They have the power to ensure that companies are winning contracts at the airports on the basis of efficiency, good labour standards and safety, not just because of low cost,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“Both airports and airlines are all too happy to turn a blind eye to the festering problems of this industry: from ridiculously high levels of sexual harassment and chronically low levels of reporting; to workers forced to sleep at airports between split shifts; to daily breaches of safety and security. Today we are lifting the lid on these problems and we are saying we want our demands for better, safer jobs met,” Kaine added.
Australia’s four major airports, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, made over $2.2 billion in profit last year, according to the ACCC. In August the Fair Work Commission terminated an enterprise agreement in place for seven years covering thousands of airport workers because it pays below the award.
The claim by airport workers is part of the plan by the TWU for widespread industrial action next year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire. The aim of the industrial action and the claim is to ensure accountability among powerful companies at the top of the transport supply chain, including airports.
Safety and security are compromised at airports because of deliberate under-staffing and poor working conditions which is causing high turnover rates. A lack of experienced staff with full security clearance means security is at risk daily.
Cabin crew and female pilots are also at risk because of high rates of sexual harassment. A review by Qantas this week showed one in four cabin crew and female pilots experienced sexual harassment in the last 12 months; shockingly just 3% reported it.
Examples of safety and security breaches uncovered by the TWU include:
· At Sydney International Airport there were 134 injury incidents among a Swissport/Aerocare staff of 326
· 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