December 20, 2019
A Jetstar contractor at the centre of a scandal over workers forced to sleep at the airports has failed to get its new wages deal approved by the Fair Work Commission.
The Commission said the Aerocare/Swissport agreement covering 3,000 baggage handlers, ramp workers, cleaners, caterers and check-in staff does not meet minimum wages and conditions and refused to approve it.
The Commission said it would consider approving only if the company made major concessions, including ending the practice of gruelling split shifts, ensured workers got paid minimum rates during night and early shifts, and gave them award minimum rates of pay and allowances.
Jetstar contracts Aerocare/Swissport to do baggage and ramp work at Perth airport. Workers are guaranteed just 60 hours a month and are not paid award rates at weekends, during night work and on Christmas Day.
Three years ago Aerocare/Swissport was exposed over staff sleeping at airports yet the company still keeps staff on split shifts and low pay. In August the Fair Work Commission shot down its current agreement saying it paid staff below the minimum award rates.
“Yesterday Jetstar workers went on strike action over low pay and poor safety conditions and today we have the Fair Work Commission calling out one of their contractors for attempting to force through a wages deal that fails even minimum standards. Jetstar needs to explain why it is using a contractor which rips its workers off and Aerocare/Swissport needs to start paying their workers a fair wage,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“Jetstar workers are the lowest paid in the Qantas group and Aerocare/Swissport workers are the lowest paid in the entire industry. Together they mean thousands of families right across Australia are struggling because of the forced part-time hours and the low rates. This is happening at a time when Qantas is making $1.3 billion profits and our four main airports are making $2.2 billion profits. Aviation is a booming industry but profits are being made at the expense of workers and their families,” he added.
Like Jetstar, safety and security is compromised at Aerocare/Swissport because of deliberate understaffing. Incidences include:
- At Sydney International Airport there were 134 injury incidents among a Swissport/Aerocare staff of 326
- Security incidents, including passengers at Perth airport allowed airside to collect their baggage after a baggage handler 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
Airport workers have submitted claims to all major airports demanding: the same rate for doing the same job; secure work with regular hours; safety and security as the number one priority, rather than a focus on engaging work to be carried out for the lowest cost possible.
The claim is part of the plan for widespread industrial action next year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire. The aim of the industrial action and the claim is to ensure accountability among powerful, wealthy companies at the top of the transport supply chain, including airports.