June 6, 2024


At today’s ACTU Congress, the TWU and ASU will ask the union movement to back in lasting change in aviation through a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to hold airlines and airports to account and give workers, passengers and regional Australia a voice for the essential industry.

Qantas is the principal perpetrator of splitting worker bargaining power, outsourcing jobs to 38 different entities. This has devastated jobs in aviation and across the economy.

Over the past 18 months, Qantas has posted $3.72 billion in underlying profit, while the four largest airports raked in $1.7 billion over the last financial year.

The recent collapse of Bonza, stranding passengers and putting hundreds of aviation jobs on the line, points to the broader issue of instability in an industry governed by aggressive competition and privatised decisions in the interests of profits and executive bonuses.

An estimated 25,000 skilled, experienced aviation workers left the industry throughout the pandemic, while ongoing worker shortages have led to airport chaos, increased workloads and fatiguing rosters across airports.

When the next black swan event hits aviation, it must not be in the same situation it was in during the pandemic with airports and airlines calling the shots and workers, customers and the community suffering. A Safe and Secure Skies Commission would ensure a voice for workers, passengers and regional Australia. It would ensure:

  • Safe and fair standards for all workers;
  • Supply chain participants including airports and airlines are responsible for safe and fair supply chains;
  • Commercial, economic and contracting pressures and incentives that can lead to unsafe and unfair practices are removed;
  • Efficient and effective dispute resolution across the supply chain, including unfair contracts and unfair contract terminations; and
  • Strong collective representation for all workers.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said:

“Unions have vowed to renew our fight to restore balance to aviation and rein in a rampant Qantas which is gouging customers in good times, seeking government handouts in hard times, and decimating aviation jobs all the time. The airline abuses its market dominance to apply contracting pressures that suppress wages and make jobs less secure.

“Qantas has shown that it has not changed and will not change unless forced to do so. Despite record profits, Qantas is arguing in court that workers it illegally sacked should receive no compensation at all.

“After 15 years of systematic degradation, aviation is on its knees and needs urgent attention. Wealthy airports have allowed airport jobs to become low-paid and insecure. Union members revived a collapsed Virgin Australia and saw it back into profit with personal sacrifices. Now, Bonza is in administration, leaving workers without pay and regional communities isolated once again.

“The decimation of aviation jobs has caused a ripple effect across industrial relations in Australia. We’re asking the whole union movement to get behind a Safe and Secure Skies Commission as a key priority to protect good, secure jobs and rebuild a critical industry for the Australian economy.”

ASU National Secretary Robert Potter said:

“Aviation is a unique and essential industry for Australia, and its workers are the backbone of its success. We need a strong, stable aviation industry for our economy, our regional communities, and hardworking families.

“Aviation workers are highly skilled and highly trained, but have suffered at the hands of executives who see workers as a cost burden rather than the cornerstone of the industry. We need to invest in decent, secure jobs to rebuild a strong and stable aviation workforce for an industry that can withstand external shocks like pandemics and natural disasters.

“Without an effective decisionmaker we will continue to see airlines and airports act to the detriment of workers and the travelling public. We need a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to correct the power imbalance and restore decent standards for airlines workers and the traveling public.”

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