March 31, 2021


The Transport Workers’ Union has filed a dispute against Virgin over the airline’s standing down of all of its ground workers after the Federal Government killed Jobkeeper at the weekend.

The dispute has been filed in the Fair Work Commission and outlines how workers have been stood down in the absence of the wage subsidy and as domestic aviation has failed to return to normal. Workers have been told they will only be rostered on partially in the coming weeks and many won’t get their minimum hours.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the standing down of Virgin workers is a direct result of the Federal Government’s decision to kill Jobkeeper.

“The Prime Minister’s cheap flights plan turned out to be a cheap trick played on aviation workers. The Federal Government’s decision to cut off Jobkeeper has resulted in Virgin workers being stood down from their jobs. This disastrous move by Scott Morrison means domestic aviation workers have been cut adrift and Virgin workers are now worried sick about how they will pay their bills and feed their families,” he said.

“Flights are being cancelled right now into Brisbane because of the lockdown. Aviation is teetering on the brink and is clearly not able to bounce back while the pandemic endures. Virgin is telling workers its flying schedule means the work is not there for them and it can only roster them on partially. Yet again it is aviation workers who are having to take the hit over the Federal Governments failings,” he said.

“The TWU and seven other aviation unions wrote to Scott Morrison when he made his cheap flights announcement warning that jobs in aviation would be put at risk. Just a few days after Jobkeeper died we are already seeing the effect. The Prime Minister has refused to meet aviation workers to hear why a wage subsidy, even with short term extensions, is vital. Instead he cooked up a plan along with the CEO of Qantas to give a wage subsidy only to international aviation workers but, surprise, surprise, Qantas are the only ones getting it since Virgin has no international crew remaining. We are again asking the Prime Minister to save jobs in aviation and to reverse the decision to kill Jobkeeper,” Kaine added.

The Federal Government rejected aviation worker calls for Aviation Keeper, wage supports all aviation workers stood down with strict conditions capping executive salaries, banning bonuses and dividends and banning outsourcing.

A survey of over 900 aviation workers earlier this month showed that the jobs of almost 90% continue to be affected by the pandemic with only 11% back to working in their jobs with normal hours.

One in five workers remain stood down from their jobs and 33% are working reduced hours.

The survey shows valuable skills have already been lost from the industry. Of the one in five workers who have left aviation or been made redundant, over 35% had over 20 years’ experience and 25% had between 10 and 20 years’ experience.

Qantas is outsourcing all of its baggage handlers, ramp workers and cabin cleaners and is replacing them with workers on lower wages and conditions. Aviation unions are taking Qantas to the High Court over both Qantas’s refusal to pay sick leave and Jobkeeper misuse.

Qantas revealed in its latest annual report it is paying its senior executives millions of dollars. When Qantas announced its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.

A YouGov poll last year found a majority of people – 62% – wanted the Government to take a stake in private companies which require bailouts, with 50% stating Qantas should be nationalised and only 20% opposed.

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