The Transport Workers’ Union has welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s decision to quash a 2018 enterprise agreement at Swissport, the aviation company at the centre of a scandal over workers forced to sleep at the airport.
Swissport (formerly Aerocare) has now failed to get approval for various enterprise agreements since 2017 and had its 2012 agreement quashed by the Commission last year. Swissport also lost a Federal Court case which tried to get approval for grueling split shifts, which forced workers to stay at the airport for up to 15 hours, while paid for as little as six hours.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the 2018 agreement forces workers to struggle on a guarantee of just 60 hours a month and below award rates.
“Swissport has spent four years fighting its own workers in expensive and lengthy court battles in an attempt to continue to rip them off with appalling conditions and below award rates. This decision is the latest case they have lost, again as the Commission clearly states their agreement doesn’t meet minimum legal requirements. Our message to Swissport is to sit down with their workers and negotiate a fair deal which allows workers to support their families,” he said.
“Aviation in Australia is in crisis and needs a national plan from the Federal Government. Swissport has supported us in calling for AviationKeeper and for assistance for the industry. As part of a reboot, jobs in aviation must be revamped so that the race to the bottom ends whereby companies try to win contracts at the airports by ripping workers off and paying them below the award,” Kaine added.
The 2012 agreement was in effect until February 2020, allowing for eight years of wage theft. The Commission quashed it last August, stating: “the terms and conditions provided for by the agreement are less beneficial than those provided for in the award, for a substantial proportion of Aerocare’s employees”.
The Commission criticised Swissport in 2018 hearings for failing to provide clear information allowing it to assess its rates. The Commission full bench notes: “The density of data within the Aerocare BOOT material and the completely locked down nature of the spreadsheets provided”.
Swissport has been exposed over workers forced to sleep at airports because of low rates and grueling split shifts.
There are also serious concerns about safety and security at Swissport. Incidents include:
· At Sydney International Airport there were 134 injury incidents among a Swissport staff of 326.
· Security incidents, including passengers at Perth airport allowed airside to collect their own baggage after a worker 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