Footage obtained by the TWU and shown on ABC 7.30 shows workers forced to sleep near baggage carousels at the airport because of low paid, part-time and insecure work.
Split shifts means workers can spend 14 hours and more per day at the airport while they are paid for just six or seven hours. The low wages and insecure hours means the incomes of many aviation workers are slipping below the poverty line.
“This footage shows the reality of work behind the shiny façade of our airports. Workers are struggling on slave wages and sleeping on bed rolls because they have to spend long days at work to support their families. They are terrified of raising concerns because the bosses are standing over them warning them against complaints. This is being allowed to happen because airports and airlines are outsourcing work to low cost companies and not giving a damn about the workers in their supply chains that it affects,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
“At the top, the insatiable greed of equity funds is being fed. Archer Capital owns Aerocare and wants profits at any cost. Sadly this cost is being born by aviation workers and their families,” he added.
The company which employs the workers highlighted in the ABC programme is Aerocare. It employs up to 3,000 staff nationwide having expanded by 300% in the last four years. It made over $13 million profit last year. Aerocare was set up to provide workers to carry out work for airlines on the ground – baggage handlers, ramp workers, aircraft-towing drivers, check-in staff, catering staff and cleaners.
Aerocare guarantees its workforce just 60 hours per month – there is no weekly guarantee. It pays below the award for weekend work, overtime and night work and doesn’t pay allowances provided for in the aviation award.
The aviation industry which hires companies like Aerocare to carry out work is booming. The four main airports, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, earned $1.8 billion profit last year, while Qantas earned over $850 million profit in the six months to December.
Aerocare is not the only company willing to subject its staff to these appalling conditions. A new Emirates-owned company, Airport Handling Services Australia, is seeking approval from the Fair Work Commission for an enterprise agreement which cuts award rates and offers workers just 60 hours work per month.
“Employers are gaming the system in a similar way to how they avoid paying tax. The Government has utterly failed to protect working families and has left them to the ravages of corporate greed. We will fight for dignity and fairness for aviation workers,” Sheldon added.