The TWU is urging the Federal Government to extend a wage subsidy to all stood down aviation workers, as Virgin and Rex stand down workers and shortfalls emerge in the NSW disaster payment.
Stood down workers in NSW already receiving single parent allowances through Centrelink are being told they cannot receive the full disaster payment.
Airlines like Virgin and ground handling companies like Dnata are scrambling to minimise disruption for stood down workers, but Federal Government loopholes continue to devastate working families in the aviation industry.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government must act now to save thousands of jobs in aviation.
“This is a tough time for aviation workers after a year when they witnessed Virgin’s collapse and worked hard to get it back up on its feet. Many are still struggling from the months spent getting by on a meagre income and draining their savings and super. We welcome Virgin’s cooperation with us during this time to ensure disruption is minimised as much as possible so that Virgin workers can get back to their jobs,” he said.
“The Federal Government is making an absolute mess of its support for aviation workers. By failing to bring in a wage subsidy for all stood down aviation workers it is threatening jobs, businesses and livelihoods. Airline workers in NSW are being penalised if they are already in receipt of government support. Workers at ground handlers in many states are ineligible for any government payment despite aviation work being significantly disrupted.
“This is a major blow for workers in an industry which has been to hell and back. They have drained their savings, eaten up their super, lost houses and have mounting bills. Now the Federal Government is abandoning them because it refuses to bring in wage supports for all affected workers,” he added.
“There is something utterly ironic about Qantas able to mount costly court cases and aggressively take on its competitors while receiving $2 billion in public money but a meagre wage disaster payment to airline workers is being off-set against single parents allowances. The Federal Government must explain how this can be justified,” Kaine said.
The TWU has been calling for AviationKeeper to be introduced – a specifically tailored support for stood down aviation workers which comes with full transparency and strict conditions on companies. This includes retaining workers with a ban on outsourcing and keeping reliable, affordable routes open to regional Australia. There should be the option for the Federal Government to take an equity stake in airlines or aviation companies needing ongoing support to ensure a return for the community, as many other countries have done. Aviation Keeper should also include a ban on executive bonuses, dividends and salary caps for executives.
According to The Border Mail, Regional Express has set aside more than $12m in company shares for executive bonuses after receiving $62m in taxpayer funding without conditions last year.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce received $10.74 million in total annual earnings last year, according to a report three weeks ago by Australian Council of Superannuation Investors on CEO pay. When Qantas announced in 2019 its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.
Qantas is receiving at least $2 billion in public funding through wage subsidies, aviation financial support and fees and charges waived.
A Federal Court has ruled Qantas acted unlawfully in outsourcing 2,000 ground workers. The court heard the airline used the “transformational opportunity” presented by the pandemic to target the workforce because they were about to bargain for better wages. A survey shows three-quarters of Qantas workers have not been able to get full-time work.