April 14, 2020


The Transport Workers’ Union has called on the Federal Government to implement a national plan to save the aviation industry, to protect jobs and companies but also to ensure a return for taxpayers.

As Virgin announced it has halted trading, TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the Federal Government needed to step in an ensure the airline survived.

“The Federal Government needs to make a bold, aggressive move, like it did on the wage subsidy, and ensure the survival of Virgin and the thousands of jobs that depend on it. It is clear that subsidizing a handful of flights a day won’t cut it in terms of helping the situation. There is no doubt that other airlines and aviation companies will need similar assistance which is why we are urging a national plan for the sector. But there should be strict conditions set down to allow for a Government equity stake, caps on executive pay and bonuses and a guarantee for quality jobs into the future,” Kaine said.

“Virgin is in difficulty now as is Rex but how long can Qantas hold out with no planes flying? The public has rightly been shocked at how Qantas has mismanaged the virus pandemic among its staff, by refusing to acknowledge the risk and failing to put in place systems to minimise the spread. Now with almost 59 infections and 750 workers in quarantine in South Australia alone, Qantas has serious questions to answer. We believe this is the right time for a rethink on how the airlines in Australia are managed,” he said.

The TWU is fighting Qantas in the Federal Court over the airline’s refusal to pay workers battling illnesses sick leave while they are stood down.

Safe Work NSW is investigating Qantas after it stood down an aircraft cleaner, who is a trained health and safety representative, when he raised concerns about the spread of the virus.

A damning report by Safe Work NSW last month found Qantas was risking exposing workers and passengers to the virus during an investigation into how Qantas cleaned its planes, after a cleaner was suspended for raising concerns. The safety regulator said aircraft cleaners are forced to wipe tray tables with the same dirty cloths and handle blood, vomit, soiled nappies, used masks and tissues without protective gear and without using disinfectant. The Regulator’s Improvement Notices also stated that Qantas was at risk of exposing workers to an infectious disease.

The worker remains suspended and Qantas has yet to meet the requirements laid out by SafeWork NSW.

The TWU is compiling information on the cluster among Qantas workers at Adelaide Airport after it emerged that the airline directed people to continue coming to work despite knowing they had been exposed to other workers infected with the virus.

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