Ground handling workers in Qantas’ supply chain are facing the prospect of pay and conditions going backwards, with hundreds of Dnata ground handlers holding a 24-hour strike on Monday 12 September, while Menzies in NSW and Victoria will apply to the Fair Work Commission to hold a protected action ballot.
Workers at both companies are pushing for viable jobs and greater financial security including more guaranteed hours for part-time workers and fair pay increases in their enterprise agreements.
On Friday, Dnata workers voted 96% in favour of strikes, triggering protected industrial action rights under the Fair Work Act for around 350 workers across Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.
The attempts to wind back pay and conditions for workers expose the commercial pressure imposed by Qantas’ low-cost contracts with ground handling labour providers Dnata, Menzies and Swissport.
Many Dnata workers are only guaranteed 20 hours per week, despite enormous understaffing and pressure on workers to get flights off the ground.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said it’s disappointing and distressing for ground handling workers to have their wages and conditions threatened at a time when pressure is through the roof.
“Dnata and Menzies ground workers are forced to pursue strike action for the first time because they can’t afford to stay in this industry if the extreme downward spiral of wages and conditions continues.”
“Ground handling is a highly-skilled job, but thousands of experienced workers have been forced out of the industry by Qantas’ illegal outsourcing and the Morrison Government refusing Dnata workers JobKeeper. Those that are left are scrambling to pick up the pieces for scraps.
“Qantas management’s strategy to dictate low wages and conditions from afar has turned once sought-after aviation careers into insecure jobs no one can afford to stay in. For many, it’s now a choice between going on strike for decent conditions or being forced to leave the industry.”
“Workers understand the commercial pressure they’re under from Qantas, but Dnata and Menzies must act responsibly and come back to the table to settle a fair deal or risk losing more staff.
“We need to rebalance aviation towards good, secure jobs that keep skilled workers in the industry and ensure the safety of the travelling public. The Albanese government should act urgently to implement a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to establish fair standards across the industry.”
There have been several safety incidents around Qantas aircraft since ground work was illegally 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.
The strikes will primarily impact international operations with knock-on effects to domestic travel.