Chronically overworked ground crew at aviation company Dnata will today apply to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote on strike action over the company’s attempt to push through an agreement that gives pay cuts to experienced workers and below award minimum conditions.
Dnata picked up low-cost contracts for ground work at Qantas after the airline illegally axed its workforce, including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane international.
The TWU is calling for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to fix the broken system of control from privatised airports and airlines pushing down wages and conditions through contracting pressures.
Workers recently quashed a costly plan by Dnata to bring in overseas workers from Manila to fill rosters, while Dnata refuses to increase hours for part-time workers or provide more permanent full-time positions.
The application to the Fair Work Commission comes after the company tried to slash pay for experienced workers who stood by the company throughout two years of stand-down without JobKeeper.
Lodging an application to hold a protected action ballot is the first step towards workers being given protections under the Fair Work Act to hold a strike, should a vote be largely in favour of action.
Ground crew have warned Dnata that chronic understaffing, airport chaos and safety incidents will only get worse if the company doesn’t offer secure jobs at higher rates to attract and retain workers.
A recent staff memo from Dnata said unsafe behaviour had led to aircraft and equipment damage, telling workers they’re not allowed to use the term ‘under the pump’ when things go wrong.
There have been several safety incidents around Qantas aircraft since ground work was outsourced across the country, including belt loaders crashing into planes, locking pins left in landing gear and incorrect weight information given to pilots before take-off.
Workers at Dnata catering who service most Australian and international airlines are also considering taking action over low pay and conditions that frequently fall behind the Award, with majority migrant women in the kitchens paid the lowest rates at just $21.54 per hour.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said while industrial action was always a last resort, overworked, exhausted workers can’t allow their pay and conditions to go backwards.
“Dnata workers struggled through two years of stand down with no financial support from their employer or the Morrison government. After standing by the company through the hardest times and now working well beyond safe capacity while rosters are severely understaffed, the most experienced workers are facing pay cuts while conditions are below Award minimums.
“Qantas has become Australia’s worst-performing airline in recent months, with understaffing of airport jobs causing delays, cancellations and lost luggage. Since taking on the contracts, Dnata has struggled to fill vacant positions because of low pay and casual, part-time work, but rather than lift standards or guarantee workers more hours in their contracts, Dnata tried to bring in overseas workers at great expense. Workers successfully knocked back that plan, but are now faced with the likelihood of having to take strike action to achieve fair pay increases and job security.
“Dnata workers are the latest casualties of the Qantas administration’s agenda to drive down wages and conditions. Despite picking up a large portion of the outsourced work, Dnata is still attacking the financial security of its workforce, calling into question the profitability of its contracts with Qantas.
“The Albanese Government must draw a line in the sand and introduce an independent Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebalance the industry towards secure jobs with decent conditions and away from the corporate greed that’s ruining Australia’s once thriving aviation industry,” Kaine said.