April 21, 2017


The union said governments, airports and airlines are ultimately responsible for profit gouging, which ultimately results in injuries among airport staff and threatens passenger safety.


“Following revelations last night, it is clear the system is broken. We need an industry-wide Award that protects wages and conditions, gives workers rights and protections and ensures high training, safety and security standards,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.


Last night’s ABC 7.30 on Aerocare showed:


  • Over 130 injury reports were made by just 324 ground staff at Sydney International Airport in the last two years
  • A worker was locked inside the cargo hold of an aircraft at Brisbane airport prior to takeoff. The incident was not reported to the safety authorities, despite safety experts saying it should have been. Paul Ovetchkine, one of the workers involved in the incident said: “There is just a lack of time and a lack of resources to actually complete the job at times.”
  • An emergency call made for an ambulance for an injured worker at Brisbane airport which Aerocare has no record of
  • Paperwork is regularly changed to meet safety requirements
  • Workers are forced back to work while still injured


“The aviation industry has been exposed for deliberate under-resourcing and working staff to the point that turning up to work is a hazard to their health and safety. Injury rates are unacceptably high at Aerocare and this is down to their model where split shifts, under-resourcing and low wages lead to unacceptable fatigue and injuries. Passenger safety is at risk because of this,” he said.


“Airlines are responsible for this because of the low cost contracts they demand from companies to carry out their ground-handling. Airport owners and investors are also responsible given the airports’ oversight on safe systems in aviation. Meanwhile the government consigns thousands of working families to an industrial relations system open to rorts and gaming by employers,” Sheldon added.


Last night’s revelations on safety and injuries at the airports follow previous footage and testimony from workers on appalling conditions at Aerocare where staff are forced to sleep at airports between split shifts. Aerocare, backed by its private equity fund owner Archer Capital, has been attempting to cover-up appalling working conditions and safety incidents which were revealed.


Staff at Aerocare have among the worst conditions in the aviation ground-handling industry. It allows for split shifts, which is specifically excluded under the award. The shifts mean staff can spend 14 hours and more per day at the airport while they are paid for just six or seven hours. Employees are guaranteed just 60 hours a month of work, with no weekly guarantee. Aerocare employees are paid reduced penalty rates at weekends, for night work and over-time.


Aerocare rushed a vote out on a new substandard enterprise agreement over the Easter weekend which lacked transparency and involved intimidation of staff. The agreement will see staff pay effectively being cut – with a one-off 5% pay increase over four years, which will be below inflation. The agreement will continue to give staff a guarantee of no more than 60 hours a month, with no weekly guarantee. This puts a couple with two children over $2000 below the poverty line*.



* With 60 hours guaranteed a month Aerocare workers earn between $1200 and $1400 a month, depending on their classification. The monthly poverty line is $1704 for a single person and $3580 for a couple with two children, according to Poverty in Australia Report 2016, by the Australian Council of Social Services, in collaboration with the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW.

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