Today TWU Virgin cabin crew members will apply for a Protected Action Ballot, with workers set to vote on strike action over poverty pay, job insecurity and unsafe conditions.
It follows Virgin Australia cancelling a meeting in which it had committed to respond to workers’ claims for a living wage and safe conditions with an updated agreement offer.
Fatigue has been a crippling issue for Virgin cabin crew, as well as pilots and ground crew. A poor rostering system, unrealistic turnaround times, and high staff turnover have led to crew missing breaks, while successive pay freezes and cuts have caused many to seek second or third jobs to pay the bills.
Cabin crew are responsible for passenger safety, including locking and arming doors, customer welfare and relaying important safety information. Fatigue can impair crew’s ability to respond to emergencies on the aircraft or in serious medical situations.
Three weeks ago, Virgin ground crew applied for a Protected Action Ballot which has now been approved by the Fair Work Commission. Virgin failed in an application to have strike notification times extended from three days to seven days.
Virgin’s approach to bargaining has frustrated ground crew, cabin crew and pilots over broken commitments from owners Bain Capital that sacrifices made to see the airline through covid and administration would be repaid.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said:
“Virgin workers above and below the wing have remained loyal, worked hard to rebuild the airline and seen it back into profit. Owners Bain Capital have not held up their end of the bargain to correct rock-bottom pay, improve work-life balance, and fix unsafe rostering.
“Pay and conditions are inextricably linked to aviation workers’ ability to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. Protected industrial action is always a last resort, but our members know there are no second chances at 30,000 feet.
“Our cabin crew, ground crew and pilot members have all reported fears of mistakes being made due to their unsustainable working conditions, made worse by high turnover, fatigue-related absenteeism, and juggling second or third jobs. Workers are utterly exhausted, with several cabin crew members reporting near-misses on their drive home from long shifts. We need to see a considerable shift in Virgin’s bargaining approach to ensure a fair, sustainable enterprise agreement offer and avoid last resort strikes.”
TWU members above and below the wing recently served a five-point claim on Virgin owners Bain Capital to future-proof the airline, by committing to:
- Respect for workers
Address cultural issues that have led to high turnover, absenteeism and disputation
- Good, secure jobs
All ground, cabin crew and pilots to be directly employed in sustainable jobs
- Ongoing investment
Invest in technology, fleet and workers to maintain and grow safe, fair standards
- Employee share scheme
Annual $1,000 employee share scheme in conjunction with IPO
- Industry reform
Support the campaign for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebalance aviation
Rebuilding aviation requires returning good, secure jobs which have been decimated over the last few years. The TWU is calling for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to set appropriate standards and rebalance the industry.