May 28, 2021


A second Qantas plane has been damaged after a collision with a vehicle used to load baggage, this time at Darwin Airport, further putting into doubt safety at Qantas after it outsourced its entire ground operations.

Video footage shows the belt loader wedged under the aircraft after damaging it. It is understood that passengers were onboard the plane when the collision happened with media reporting that it caused the plane to shake. The flight was due to depart for Perth and has now been cancelled.

A plane at Perth Airport last week was left with a large gash after the brakes on a belt loader failed, causing it crash into the plane with the worker narrowly escaping serious injury.

Qantas outsourced all of its 2,500 ground workers this year so it could pay lower wages for baggage, ramp and cleaning work. Since then safety and service issues have arisen, including pilots given dangerous and incorrect baggage weight information, understaffing of ground operations with teams halved, the use of old equipment around aircraft and problems including excessive delays with baggage at airports. A child’s electric wheelchair was smashed at Sydney Airport after it was incorrectly placed on a baggage belt.

The TWU has written to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and WorkSafe WA calling for investigations.

TWU SA/NT Branch Secretary Ian Smith said the Darwin Airport collision should prompt urgent examination of Qantas’s entire ground operations.

“This incident at Darwin Airport is serious and with workers around the aircraft and passengers onboard it could have caused injuries. This is not an isolated incident and it follows a long list of problems in Qantas’s ground operations across the country since the airline outsourced its workers. We are calling on all relevant workplace and aviation authorities to investigate Qantas’s operations urgently,” Smith said.

“Serious questions must be asked of the Qantas board and the Federal Government which have stood by and allowed standards to get dragged down to the point that we have extensive damage happening to aircraft and workers and passengers narrowly escaping injury. The public has pumped $2 billion into Qantas since the pandemic hit and all we have to show for it is outsourced workers and safety breaches. Both the Qantas board and the Federal Government must start holding senior Qantas management to account,” he added.

A Federal Court ruling is pending on the outsourcing of Qantas ground workers which the TWU argued is illegal under the Fair Work Act. Workers at 10 airports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Alice Springs and Canberra lost their jobs due to the outsourcing. Darwin Qantas workers were among the last to be pushed out, with some doing their final shifts in April.

Last week Qantas 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.

Click here for video of Darwin collision.

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