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Airport disruption looms as workers prepare to serve claim

February 12, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The Productivity Commission report on economic regulation of airports has drawn fire from Qantas and unions alike, with Qantas calling the findings too expensive for travellers and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) warning of potential airport disruption as aviation workers prepare to serve a claim to make airports “account for low pay and conditions”.

Qantas called Productivity Commission report disappointing, saying it “essentially endorses Australia’s airports to remain some of the most expensive in the world. That means the travelling public will continue to pay more at every stage of their journey, whether it’s car parking, taxis or airport landing fees”.

“The travelling public will be surprised by the finding that airport parking prices aren’t excessive,” Qantas remarked pointedly. Many travellers find the parking prices outrageous.

The TWU claim will demand:

  • The same pay for the same job, regardless of which company engages workers;
  • Secure work with permanent full-time jobs;
  • Safety and security as a number one priority, rather than a focus on engaging work to be carried out for the lowest cost possible.

The TWU launched its claim when it found the Productivity Commission draft report on economic regulation of airports had ignored TWU calls for airports to be held responsible for poor labour rights.

“The Productivity Commission report lets airports off the hook over the biggest disgrace going on in aviation at the moment, and that is the manner in which jobs have been downgraded to the point that passenger safety and security is being threatened,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine declared.

“We will no longer tolerate workers forced to sleep at airports between shifts and we will no longer tolerate daily breaches of safety and security which threaten air travel.

“Airports at the top of the supply chain make hefty profits by squeezing companies which operate at them. This in turn results in workers forced onto the poverty line because of low rates and forced part-time work. This impacts on safety and security because of the high turnover of staff and chronic fatigue because of split shifts.

“At the moment we have aviation employees working side by side on vastly different rates and conditions. We have workers on as few as 60 hours per month with the potential for getting more hours entirely at the discretion of the employer. We have high injury rates among staff and far too many instances of safety and security breaches.

“This claim will help lift standards across the aviation industry and ensure fairness and safety are the priority, not profits and big executive bonuses.”

The TWU has for several years protested againt conditions endured by airport workers that it describes as appalling. It has slammed ground handling company Aerocare Swissport over workers forced to sleep at the airports “because of low rates and split shifts which see workers forced to stay at the airport for over 15 hours a day while being paid for just six hours”.

Sydney Airport

THE TWU SAYS:

  • At Sydney International Airport, 134 injuries were reported among the Aerocare Swissport staff of just 326. There was a major security breach at Perth airport when passengers were allowed airside to collect their own baggage because of understaffing by Aerocare Swissport.
  • Aerocare Swissport lost a recent Federal Court judgment when it tried to get backing for its gruelling split shifts. It has previously lost several cases when it tried to get backing for an enterprise agreement which fell well below minimum standards.
  • “Aerocare Swissport is a perfect example of why this claim is so necessary: years after the degrading conditions were revealed and the rates and split shifts were thrown out by the courts, the company has changed not one thing about its business model. Its workers are still suffering because of low pay and poor conditions. Airports are profiting from exploitation at companies like Aerocare Swissport and we are determined to hold them to account,” Kaine said.
  • The aviation industry is highly profitable. The four main airports make over AUD 2 billion in profit, according to the latest ACCC airport monitoring report.
  • “Our members have demonstrated in our push to hold the major companies at the top of the supply chain in road transport to account that they won’t be ignored when it comes to fairness and safety,” Kaine said.
  • “Truck drivers have made huge strides in ensuring major retailers take responsibility for fairness and safety throughout their supply chains. Airport workers will similarly ensure that airports hear their voices. This could result in disruptions at our airports but if this is what it takes to avert catastrophes in the air and to put a stop to inhuman conditions for workers then we are prepared for it. As with the road transport fight, we are prepared to continue battling for years to achieve our aims for safe and secure skies in Australia.”

Edited by Peter Needham

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