August 9, 2021


The TWU is warning jobs will be lost in aviation unless the Federal Government extends a wage subsidy to all stood down aviation workers, including those carrying out catering, cleaning and baggage work at ground handling companies.

It comes as ground handling companies also warn of the threat to jobs and flights in the sector.

Mass stand downs are underway at Qantas with extended lockdowns and cancelled flights impacting on companies the airline outsourced ground work to. However, the Federal Government’s wage subsidy scheme announced last week will only go to workers directly employed by the airlines.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the lack of support threatens jobs in companies such as Dnata, whose workers the Federal Government also cut out of Jobkeeper last year because of their company’s structure.

“The Federal Government is picking and choosing which aviation workers to support and which not. How is it that Qantas workers are worthy of a wage subsidy and the colleagues they work alongside in ground handling companies are not? If you’re a worker at a ground handler in Perth, Darwin or Adelaide and have been stood down because flights have been grounded in Sydney you are being told to fend for yourself. There’s nothing here for you. But if you work for Qantas you’ll get a wage subsidy. This isn’t only unfair it also has the potential of hampering the ability of flights to get off the ground when lockdowns lift – because there won’t be anyone to do the baggage, catering or cleaning,” he added.

“This move by the Federal Government is yet another perfect example of piecemeal support and botched policy agenda. The Government is spending taxpayers’ money but not in a way that will fully protect the skills and experience that aviation requires. There is no plan and no strategy for an industry that 18 months into a pandemic is still being blindsided and is under serious threat. We call for a national plan for aviation which would include Aviation Keeper for all stood down aviation workers and an equity stake for companies requiring ongoing public financial support,” he added.

The TWU has been calling for Aviation Keeper Aviation Keeper 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.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce received $10.74 million in total annual earnings last year, according to a report last month 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.

Two weeks ago, a Federal Court 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. The TWU is now pushing for the workers to be reinstated and compensated. A survey shows three-quarters of Qantas workers have not been able to get full-time work.

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