June 15, 2022


The Transport Workers’ Union says while increases to pay in modern aviation awards are welcome, the insecure work crisis in the industry will continue until the Federal Government intervenes with an independent body to level the playing field for workers and end the splintering of work that’s seen conditions in airports collapse.

The insecure work crisis in aviation is decades in the making, with wealthy airport corporations and airlines like Qantas under the Joyce management team depressing wages and conditions by fragmenting work to labour-hire companies. Under pressures to win lucrative aviation contracts, these companies are forced to slash pay and cut back on safety to remain competitive.

The result is an industry that’s not short of workers, but short of good, secure jobs. Some 12,500 workers were turfed out during the pandemic because of the deliberate exclusion of ground crew and security staff from JobKeeper, and Qantas management’s overzealous redundancies and illegal sacking of close to 2,000 workers – with those jobs replaced with insecure part-time or casual employment.

The TWU is calling for an independent Safe and Secure Skies Commission which could regulate the unique industry by creating enforceable standards that would lift wages, end spiralling underemployment, and protect secure work to attract skilled workers back to aviation. Independent of the profiteering of major airlines, the Commission could rebalance the industry in the interests of workers and passengers.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the deliberate splintering of the workforce has left the industry exposed.

“Increases to minimum rates are a good first step, but they aren’t a silver bullet. There are structural problems in aviation which accumulate power in the hands of airport corporations and airlines against workers’ and passengers’ interests. Those at the top hoard profits when times are good, yet target quality, secure jobs and come cap-in-hand to taxpayers for billions when things go wrong. The result is an industry shamefully focused on rank profiteering and bloated executive bonuses’.

‘Workers and passengers are being left behind. Skilled workers are leaving the industry in droves because working and safety conditions have never been lower. Workers are stressed out, fatigued and over-worked because corporate dictators in Qantas management have run conditions into the ground’.

‘There’s not a worker shortage in aviation, there’s a shortage of good, secure and decent jobs. Until industry leaders and policymakers recognise this fundamental truth, we should buckle in for the chaos we’ve seen during peak travel times – including the upcoming July school holidays – to continue’.

“Aviation workers need an independent Safe and Secure Skies Commission that can even the playing field and reorient the industry away from the profiteering that’s left aviation so exposed. An independent body could not only set enforceable standards but serve as an independent umpire to make determinations that put job security and safety first. The Federal Government must move quickly to end the industry’s turbulence and help sustainably rebuild the industry.

Wasteful corporate largesse coupled with attacks on secure work have become increasingly common, particularly under Qantas’ current senior management. While workers are over-worked and exhausted trying to cover gaps in rosters or searching for work after having their jobs ripped away from them, Qantas is splashing the cash on luxury wine memberships and retreats, $36 billion on plane purchases, and costly appeals against Federal Court rulings its outsourcing was illegal.

Since its illegal outsourcing, Qantas has lost its prized ranking as the world’s safest airline and experienced a number of serious safety incidents; including belt-loaders crashing into planes, pilots being given incorrect weight information and locking pins being left in landing gear.

The Federal Court has on two occasions found Qantas illegally outsourced its ground crew to prevent them bargaining and taking industrial action. Qantas is dragging out legal proceedings by seeking unnecessary and costly leave to appeal to the High Court.

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