Slightly over half of Swissport workers have voted up an agreement that will see union-won 10% pay increases in the first year and 18 per cent over the life of the agreement, though the insistence of the company to push through poor conditions that will not fix chronic understaffing or safety issues caused 45 per cent of workers to vote against the deal.
The settlement comes as Qantas, which contracted the bulk of its illegally outsourced ground work to Swissport, announces an underlying profit of $1.4 billion for the first half of the financial year before tax, almost double the half-year profit reported before the pandemic in February 2020.
Swissport workers have been under immense pressure amid airport chaos, with the company acknowledging it did not have enough staff to fill demand.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said there is a wave of change across aviation jobs with workers pushing for better pay, secure jobs and safer conditions, reflected in this tight vote.
“For years Swissport has had to do a patch-up job on its agreements just to get them passed through the Fair Work Commission. Swissport has a track record of pushing through shoddy agreements, keeping pay and conditions so low that workers are drawn to vote up a deal because they need a pay increase as quickly as possible to cover their bills and support their families.
“Despite the current cost-of-living crisis, almost half of these workers said no to an 18 per cent pay increase over the next four years because they need to see conditions improve. It is understandable that half the workforce simply didn’t have the resources to wait any longer.
“We must remember that Qantas is pulling the purse strings through low-cost contracts after illegally outsourcing ground work to pay people less to do the same jobs.
“We will continue seeing airport chaos and a revolving door of workers until we regain the levels of training and experience the industry has lost, and to do that workers need good, secure jobs.
“It shouldn’t be so hard for workers to achieve pay increases above bare minimums and job security. Workers have fought incredibly hard for a better industry, but with Qantas dictating pay and conditions from afar, this agreement still falls well short of what aviation workers deserve.
“The corporate dictatorship at Qantas, through illegal outsourcing and underhanded tactics, has made it almost impossible for workers to achieve fair outcomes. This industry can’t sustain itself unless and until workers have good, secure jobs, and the Federal Government must establish a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to refocus the industry away from executive bonuses and towards quality service standards.”
- A survey of Swissport workers in October 2022 found that 76% would consider leaving the industry if things didn’t improve
- 81% are concerned there aren’t enough staff
- The TWU also obtained several memos sent from Swissport that revealed shocking safety incidents, including:
- Firearms unloaded onto arrivals carousels;
- Dangerous goods loaded onto planes without being documented;
- Cargo doors left open;
- Stairs removed while passenger doors open;
- Huge plane load imbalances;
- Staff working while injured; and
- Vehicles colliding with the refueling hose.
- Click here to see the safety incidents
- Swissport has been in and out of the Fair Work Commission since 2012, with Enterprise Agreements that failed to pass the BOOT
- Swissport also lost a Federal Court case which tried to get approval for gruelling split shifts, which forced workers to stay at the airport for up to 15 hours, while paid for as little as six hours.