March 25, 2020


The Transport Workers’ Union has appealed to the Government to pay up to 80% of workers’ wages, as Virgin announced 8000 workers will be stood down and Tigerair suspended.

The Union is critical of Virgin’s insistence that workers use their leave while stood down but says the airline has agreed to talks about compensation when the crisis is over.

“Virgin, another significant employer in Australia, is standing workers down and forcing them to shoulder the burden by taking their leave. The Government is standing by while workers are taking the hit instead of guaranteeing part of their wages and ensuring that when the crisis abates they will not be drastically worse off,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

“We are pleased that Virgin at least has agreed to discuss how workers can be compensated for the leave they have diligently built up, in some cases for their retirement. We urge other employers, like Qantas, to follow suit,” Kaine added.

“It is important that we plan for the end of this crisis as well as deal with the tumultuous impact of the pandemic at present. Workers need to be able to get back to work and ensure not have their entire reserves, whether it is leave, savings or superannuation funds, wiped out. Workers should not be the only ones bearing the brunt of this crisis. Government must step up and guarantee wages and companies need to do right by their workers and give commitments to repaying the hit workers are taking,” he said.

The TWU has called for companies to agree to not pay shareholder dividends or executive bonuses before workers are back to work and all leave has been recredited. The Union also called for companies like Qantas to pay bonuses now which have been promised to workers.

A YouGov Galaxy poll this week carried out by the TWU showed a majority of people – 62% – want the Government to take a stake in private companies which require bailouts, with 50% stating that Qantas should be nationalised if the current situation gets worse and only 20% opposed.

The poll also shows the public is very supportive of the Federal Government’s relief to airlines last week, with 68% saying they agree with the $715 million assistance package.

A large majority – 80% – said executive bonuses and shareholder dividends should not be paid until Qantas workers are paid back the accrued and future leave the company is forcing them to take. Almost two-thirds said Qantas should ensure its workers do not have to take unpaid leave.

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