Qantas rather than pushing for mandatory vaccination should ensure that all workers in their supply chain are able to get vaccinated without losing any pay, said the Transport Workers’ Union.
A recent survey of 800 aviation workers showed only one third of aviation workers have been fully vaccinated with many workers saying they were having difficulty getting access to the vaccine and in organising vaccination ahead of roster changes with the potential of losing work. A majority of those vaccinated organised the shot themselves (70%), with just 30% assisted by their employer.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas should guarantee pay when workers get vaccinated and ensure rapid testing for crew and passengers rather than blaming workers.
“The problem is not that workers aren’t getting vaccinated. The problem is that many workers either can’t get access to the vaccine or are finding that when booking vaccine appointments in advance they risk losing work ahead of rosters getting published. Yet again Qantas is behaving like a dictator trying to blame workers for a problem which should be borne by the Federal Government for the failed rollout and by Qantas which is failing to guarantee that workers won’t lose a cent in pay if they get the jab,” he said.
“Alan Joyce, who earned $11 million last year, is ignoring the grim reality for his workers that after a year of stand down on meagre income they are struggling. Every extra shift, every hour’s penalty rate is vital to these workers. Many have told us they have missed out on pay to get vaccinated but not everyone can do that. Qantas management needs to drop the tone with its workers and start recognising what the real problem is,” Kaine added.
Cabin crew and pilots at 78% overwhelmingly support rapid pre-flight tests of crew and passengers to help reduce risks.
“Workers are telling us they want rapid testing to keep themselves and their families safe. We call on Qantas to work to get this in place, rather than shifting the burden for protection entirely onto workers,” Kaine added.
Scott Morrison has not responded to two written requests from the TWU for aviation workers to be added to vaccine priority lists and for rapid pre-flight testing to be introduced at airports.
Survey respondents said their jobs made it difficult to access vaccines.
One cabin crew respondent said: “I travelled 2 hours each way to get my shots – total four hours additional driving on top of a ten hour work day and waking up that morning at 2.30am. After getting the vaccine I got home at 11pm that day. Unbelievably exhausting.”
A cabin crew worker echoed this problem: “Most cabin crew I have spoken to who weren’t vaccinated is because it was too far from home to travel. Also I had to try and time my shots and bid for days off which was very stressful and annoying that I had to use my bids to get the day off and not guaranteed. The company should assist cabin crew with organised time off to get the shot.”
“The government should be facilitating employers of front-line workers, provision and access for staff vaccinations,” said a cabin crew worker.
Another called for “vaccine clinics at airports for border and transport workers. Rostering protocols amended to allow one to book in for a vaccine and not have to cancel the appointment due to a duty change.”
A pilot called for “time off for vaccine appointment that is booked blindly without a roster…. frontline crew would have to cancel from a rostered trip to attend a vaccinationappointment made weeks ago.”
A ground crew worker said: “I’m a casual and only get a roster a few days in advance. It’s impossible to book a time to be vaccinated without risking losing a day’s pay.”