Swissport workers in Australia stand in solidarity with their counterparts in the US calling for safer working conditions at the scandal-ridden airport ground services operator.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Swissport is known to undercut other providers for low-cost contracts by keeping workers on some of the worst conditions at the airport, after previously being exposed in Sydney for workers sleeping below baggage carousels between gruelling split shifts.
“It’s concerning but not surprising to see shocking safety standards are the norm across Swissport operations in the US as well as in Australia. Workers in the TWU offer their solidarity to members of SEIU as a rank-and-file movement to lift standards is echoed in both countries.
“Last year, the TWU exposed a horrific series of safety incidents at Swissport in Australia, including mishandling of dangerous goods, firearms being unloaded onto baggage carousels, dangerous weight imbalances, passenger stairs removed while the doors were still open with passengers inside, cargo doors left open for take-off, vehicle collisions with aircraft and refuelling hoses, and injured workers being pressured to keep working.
“Most concerning has been the response – or lack thereof – from Swissport management to these incidents. Staff memos show Swissport has been aware that chronic understaffing is a significant cause for poor safety outcomes, but in recent negotiations management actively opposed improving conditions to attract and retain workers. The response to many of these horrific near-catastrophic events was to send out a ‘toolbox talk’ via email effectively telling staff to be more careful, or to implement insufficient safety protocols such as a ‘thumbs up’ check before removing passenger stairs.
“In a recent TWU survey, less than a fifth of Swissport workers said they had received training on new safety protocols, while almost half said they find out about safety procedures from their workmates. Four in every five workers said they are under pressure to rush and expressed concern about the safety implications of understaffing, while 62 per cent said they’ve been so fatigued at work they’ve worried about causing a safety incident. Three quarters said the old equipment they use are a safety hazard.
“Workers are standing up here and across the globe, despite the hostility of management towards its workforce unionising. The TWU congratulates SEIU members for standing up for safer, fairer conditions at work. Meanwhile in Australia, Qantas illegally sacked 1700 workers to grant Swissport most of the outsourced jobs based solely on cost-cutting rather than maintaining safety and service standards.
“That’s why we’re calling on the Australian Government to establish a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebalance aviation away from corporate greed and back to an industry with its priorities in order which offers good, secure jobs.”