The Transport Workers’ Union is calling on the Federal Government to intervene after Qantas allowed passengers to fly to Brisbane after one of its aircraft was hit by a baggage loader before takeoff in Darwin.
The incident follows several safety breaches in recent weeks, including another baggage loader hitting a plane in Darwin, forcing the cancellation of the flight, and a similar collision at Perth airport which left a gaping hole in the plane. There have been other reports of pilots given incorrect information about aircraft weight due to baggage loading, animals left stranded, a child’s wheelchair smashed and excessive delays with baggage.
Qantas outsourced all of its ground operations this year, axing the jobs of 2,500 workers, so it could pay lower wages and conditions.
TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith said the Darwin incident put lives at risk.
“This latest incident at Darwin Airport is terrifying and could have ended in catastrophe. A plane was hit by a baggage loader and took off with passengers on board. Qantas only discovered the incident the next day in Brisbane and say the damage was minor but it could have been different, with the potential for internal damage to the aircraft. The safety systems at Qantas must be investigated, from how incidents are reported, to training, skills and experience levels of workers, understaffing of operations, the age and state of equipment,” Smith said.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine called on the Transport Minister Michael McCormack to intervene in the interests of passenger safety.
“We call on the Federal Transport Minister to begin a multi-agency investigation into Qantas’ safety systems as we are concerned that passengers and workers lives are being put at risk. This must involve Safe Work, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The Federal Government is continuing to pump public money into Qantas after it outsourced skilled workers and is trashing safety and service standards. The Government must start holding Qantas to account and guaranteeing safe air travel,” Kaine said.
The TWU has written to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and Safe Work about the previous safety breaches and will be updating them on the latest incident.
A Federal Court ruling is pending on the outsourcing of Qantas ground workers which the TWU argued is illegal under the Fair Work Act. Thousands of workers at 10 airports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs and Canberra lost their jobs due to the outsourcing.
Qantas recently announced that it will cut more jobs and impose a 2-year wage freeze on workers, despite receiving $2 billion in federal public funding.
The TWU has been calling for conditions to be attached to all federal and state funding for Qantas, including a halt to outsourcing of jobs, a cap on executive salaries and a ban on bonuses.
Qantas revealed in its annual report last year it is paying its senior executives millions of dollars. When Qantas announced its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.