The warning comes as the Federal Court gave the go-ahead for a case to proceed brought by aviation ground handling company Aerocare, the company at the centre of a scandal over staff forced to sleep at airports because of low rates and split shifts.
“Flying in Australia will be less safe if the employees servicing planes and dealing with passengers are forced to work split shifts. Aerocare employees on split shifts are currently forced to stay at work for 15 hours and more while being paid for as little as six hours. This results in chronic fatigue and is a causing high injury and incident rates at Aerocare,” said Michael Kaine, TWU Acting National Secretary.
Airport workers last week and in November protested at major airports over split shifts and poverty conditions for aviation staff. Aerocare staff spoke about sleeping behind the baggage carousel at Sydney Airport, in their cars and in offices at airports around the country.
“Airport workers have said that they do not want split shifts. They want decent jobs that allow them to provide for their families. When a system can’t provide this basic objective, the rules are clearly broken and they must be change,” Kaine added.
The Aerocare Federal Court case will have implications for all aviation employees and workers in other industries including nurses, aged care workers, electricians and shop workers. The company is taking the case after the Fair Work Commission last August rejected its latest enterprise agreement saying the rates were too low and its split shifts illegal. Separately Aerocare are seeking to have this decision quashed in the Federal Court.
Working conditions and deliberate understaffing at airports are already impacting on safety and security. Records from Sydney International Airport show, 132 injuries were reported over a one-year period, among a Aerocare staff of just 324. At Perth Airport passengers were allowed unsupervised onto a secure airside area to collect their own baggage when one Aerocare employee was made to unload an aircraft alone.
Australia’s four major airports – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane – reported a record-breaking $1.8bn profit according to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Airport Monitoring Report.
Click here for images and footage showing conditions and safety breaches at Aerocare: http://www.twu.com.au/aerocare-breaches/