Qantas contractor Swissport, the scandal-ridden ground handler exposed over its workers forced to sleep at airports, will appeal to the Fair Work Commission today to approve a substandard deal which would see workers paid below the award.
Today’s case is the latest in multiple Commission and Federal Court cases Swissport has taken since 2017 seeking approvals for substandard enterprise agreements and related issues, all of which Swissport have lost.
Qantas announced yesterday it is contracting out around 1,000 of the 2,500 Qantas workers’ jobs the airline is axing and outsourcing to Swissport, which has links to the Chinese Government. Swissport is desperately trying to put in place an enterprise agreement that exploits workers to keep costs low so it can meet the Qantas contract demands.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Swissport’s latest Commission case was another attempt to lock its current and future workers into poverty wages.
“There is a race to the bottom in aviation with Swissport leading the charge and Qantas cheering them on from the sidelines. The upshot is aviation workers are on poverty wages, ripped off to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. We have exposed Swissport over multiple breaches of award standards, of workers forced to sleep at airports, of injuries and security failures. Yet despite this they win the lion’s share of the jobs Qantas wants to outsource. Qantas is rewarding Swissport for its attack on workers’ wages and conditions,” he said.
“The Federal Government is yet again standing on the sidelines watching the aviation industry descend deeper into crisis. Through its strategy of ‘no strings corporate welfare’, the Government is allowing Qantas to outsource workers whose jobs have been supported by taxpayers and is allowing Swissport to continue its strategy of degrading conditions. Time and again aviation workers have been failed and our industry is in danger of collapsing standards which will impact on service, safety and security. Meanwhile the Federal Government has no answer,” he added.
The Fair Work Commission in August ordered a rehearing of the approval of Swissport’s 2018 agreement. The agreement forces employees to struggle on a guarantee of just 60 hours a month at below award rates and conditions.
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 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
The Federal Government has given over a billion dollars to the aviation industry, including over a $800 million to Qantas by June, since the pandemic hit, with no conditions attached on retaining jobs or capping CEO salaries.
Qantas revealed in its annual report recently it is paying its senior executives millions of dollars. When Qantas announced last year its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.
On Friday, sick Qantas workers were left devastated after the airline’s refusal to allow them to use the leave they built up over years was backed by the Federal Court. Qantaswas found by the Federal Court previously to be misusing Jobkeeper, refusing to pay workers for the overtime and weekends they have worked.
The Senate recently passed a motion setting up an inquiry into the future of the aviation industry. It is expected to look at Government and industry failings to date and set out recommendations for support into the future.