Chaos at Australia’s airports as they struggle to return to peak service demands a national aviation recovery plan to fix the sector’s overwhelmed and underpaid anaemic workforce, says the Transport Workers Union.
Aviation has suffered a mass exodus of skilled workers after the Morrison government failed to provide JobKeeper to swathes of the aviation sector and turned a blind eye to the illegal outsourcing of 2000 workers by Qantas.
Without a national recovery plan, the industry remains exposed to external shocks like COVID-19 variants, exorbitant fuel costs, natural disasters and international unrest. Reform is urgently needed to stop the cycle of airports and airlines profiteering and stuffing executive pay packets when times are good and then going cap in hand to governments when external shocks hit.
Since the start of the pandemic, the TWU has been calling for a national plan for aviation to support workers and airlines through COVID, and rebuild aviation fairly as hard borders came down. Specifically, the TWU wants to see a Safe and Secure Skies Commission put in place to lift standards at the airport and end spiralling underemployment, with stressed out workers doing the same jobs on vastly different rates and conditions, jeopardising safety.
“Australians can thank Scott Morrison and his absent government for being stuck at airports rather than doing Easter egg hunts with kids,” said Michael Kaine, TWU national secretary.
“For more than two years, the Morrison government gave away billions of taxpayer dollars to airlines with no string attached, while failing to prevent the forced exodus of workers from the aviation sector.
“Staffing shortages were entirely predictable – the sector was hit hard by the pandemic but failures by the Morrison government to insulate the workforce have exacerbated the challenges. The Morrison government failed to secure the aviation workforce by denying workers employed by international companies JobKeeper. They’ve left the sector and don’t want to return to casual low paid work with poor conditions.
“Under the Morrison Government Aviation has become a highly outsourced sector, which means casual workers paid less for doing the same job as directly employed workers. Many of these international companies that are outsourced to, such as Dnata and SNP Security, didn’t get JobKeeper. Unsupported workers left the sector entirely and now don’t want to come back to casual, low-paid jobs with bad conditions.
“Workers deserve a national plan which puts them at the centre of rebuilding aviation. To do that, workers need a Commission with powers to lift standards throughout aviation and protect secure jobs. Complimenting a Commission must be funded programs to support workers retrain and reconnect to the jobs they lost during the pandemic, and targeted spending to reduce COVID risks and maintain public confidence in air travel.”
In July 2021, the Federal Court found Qantas illegally outsourced its ground crew to prevent them bargaining and taking industrial action. There are 2000 workers who are waiting to be reinstated by Qantas after being illegally sacked, but the airline refuses.
“Qantas pocketed $865 million in JobKeeper and at the same time illegally outsourced its entire ground operations. Now the airline doesn’t have enough customer service workers, baggage handlers or ground staff to respond to surging demand.”