September 6, 2022


The TWU is in talks with SafeWork and has called on CASA and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to investigate Qantas’ supply chain following an explosive dossier of serious safety breaches at Swissport, the ground handling labour provider carrying out the bulk of Qantas’ illegally outsourced work.

Through worker safety surveys, the TWU has obtained several memos sent from Swissport to workers reporting incidents, including:

  • Firearms unloaded onto arrivals carousels;
  • Dangerous goods loaded onto planes without being documented;
  • Cargo doors left open;
  • Stairs removed while passenger doors open;
  • Huge plane load imbalances;
  • Staff working while injured; and
  • Vehicles colliding with the refueling hose.

Several of the memos acknowledge understaffing as a safety issue. One memo says:
“The business is acutely aware that our human resource levels are simply not at a sustainable level to meet the ongoing demand from the airlines.”

The TWU understands the electronic ‘toolbox talks’ are the closest thing to updated safety protocols or training that workers received after the incidents occurred.

The TWU has provided the dossier to safety regulators, copied to the Minister for Transport, calling for safety investigations into understaffing, worker pressure, lack of training, and insufficient enforcement of safety protocols.

Prior to this dossier coming to light, several other safety incidents had been reported in Qantas’ supply chain since work was outsourced to Swissport, Dnata and Menzies such as belt loaders crashing into planes, and incorrect weight information given to pilots.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said:
“Safety regulators must urgently and rigorously investigate Qantas’ supply chain before a catastrophic event takes hold of aviation. We need to leave no stone unturned to bust open Qantas’ ground handling contracts to the bare bones and examine the commercial pressures piled onto a chronically understaffed, inexperienced workforce.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen. When Qantas illegally outsourced this work to the lowest common denominator, it began playing a game of chance with the lives of workers and passengers. It’s sheer luck that these incidents didn’t result in shootings, fires, deaths or serious injuries.

“The memos clearly show the company is aware its understaffing issues are a safety concern, but Swissport management has refused to lift pay and conditions, provide more secure employment or treat workers better to recruit and retain staff. Meanwhile half of the highly trained workers illegally sacked by Qantas are still looking for a permanent job.

“Last night’s Four Corners episode rocked the nation exposing Alan Joyce’s obsessive disdain for his own workforce and his calculated efforts to splinter the industry to drive down pay and condtions.

“Nothing about any of this is in the interest of Qantas customers or the public, who spent billions bailing out the airline during the pandemic. There’s no two ways about it, the toxic culture and supply chain bullying will not end until Joyce is gone and a fresh Qantas team put in place,” he said.

Dnata ground workers in Qantas’ supply chains have been left no choice but to go on strike next Monday to get more guaranteed hours and sustainable jobs.

The TWU is calling for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to enforce standards that would rebalance the focus from executive bonuses and shareholder dividends to a safe, quality industry that serves the community and its workforce.

“The community should be rightly alarmed as we are of the revelations over the last 24 hours. Dnata workers are looking at last resort industrial action, Swissport is on the verge of a devastating incident, and Qantas has been exposed for a deliberate strategy of attacking its workforce. Workers and the travelling public need an aviation commission to ensure safety is the number one priority for all industry participants,” Kaine said.

Click here for Swissport safety incidents

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