The Transport Workers’ Union is appealing to Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter to meet Jetstar workers, after his intervention in the dispute on Friday. The move comes as Federal Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke meets workers at Sydney airport today.
The union wrote to the Minister at the weekend thanking him for calling for talks to resume, which were broken off by Jetstar last Monday when they gave a “final offer” to workers and announced they would force a vote on their substandard agreement.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said workers were keen to meet Mr Porter to explain their situations. “Workers were delighted to hear the Minister had intervened and called for talks to get back on track: this is exactly what workers want to see as well. They also want to explain to him how they are the face of the issues his Government is also grappling with, namely underemployment and low wage growth. With many Jetstar workers guaranteed no more than 20 hours a week. They are struggling to pay bills and support their families,” Kaine said.
“This is not a pay dispute. This is a battle against underemployment and a battle for decent jobs at the airport. Jetstar has broken off talks and is refusing to negotiate with its workforce. It is running an industrial dictatorship by putting an ultimatum on the table, threatening backpay and walking away. Jetstar workers are bravely taking a stand against this behavior and standing up against the issues dragging the entire Australian economy down,” Kaine added.
Jetstar workers are the lowest paid in the Qantas Group with many guaranteed no more than 20 hours work per week. Jetstar has rejected their claims for a guaranteed minimum 30 hours a week, stable rosters that don’t constantly change, a commitment to engage Jetstar employees rather than untrained, exploited labour hire workers and appropriate pay rates for workers continually performing higher duties.
In response Jetstar presented an agreement deliberately designed to keep Jetstar workers impoverished which will also allow the company to demote them without consultation, make it more difficult for workers to take personal leave and reduce redundancy payments. Jetstar has said if workers do not accept the substandard agreement it will refuse to pay them backpay to March 2019, which would amount to thousands of dollars per worker and enforce another wage freeze. Jetstar workers have already been told they will not receive the bonus Qantas announced after its bumper $1.3 billion profit last year because of their strike action in December.
Jetstar workers went on strike twice in December and then announced a moratorium to allow people to get home for Christmas and for the bushfire relief in January. Workers met management twice in recent weeks to discuss their claims but all were rejected. Jetstar has said it will force workers to vote on the deal they have rejected. In December, 94% of Jetstar workers voted to take protected industrial action.
Jetstar has been engaging more exploited labour hire staff since the December strikes, including workers at Swissport, which the Fair Work Commission ruled last year was a paying workers below minimum award rates and conditions.
Workers are also concerned about safety and Jetstar has yet to comply with two improvement notices from SafeWork NSW related to dangerous understaffing and broken equipment. Workers are at risk of “serious injury” from being “crushed” and “ingested” by aircraft, one notice said.
Jetstar made revenues of $4 billion this year while Australia’s four major airports, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, made over $2.2 billion in profit last year, according to the ACCC.
The Jetstar vote is a kick-start to a major industrial campaign planned from June right across the road and aviation transport networks.
Airport workers have submitted claims to all major airports demanding: the same rate for doing the same job; secure work with regular hours; safety and security as the number one priority, rather than a focus on engaging work to be carried out for the lowest cost possible.