The Transport Workers’ Union has warned of potential disruption as aviation workers prepare to serve a claim on airports which will hold them to account for low pay and conditions.

The claim comes as the Productivity Commission released a draft report on economic regulation of airports, but ignored TWU calls for airports to be held responsible for poor labour rights.

The 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 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.

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.

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.

The TWU has for several years highlighted appalling conditions for airport workers. Ground handling company Aerocare Swissport has been exposed 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.

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.

Peter Biagini, TWU Queensland Branch Secretary said that 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.” Mr Biagini said.

The aviation industry is highly profitable. The four main airports make over $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.

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.

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