Airport workers have achieved a major win with the Federal Court rejecting an application to keep thousands of baggage handlers, cleaners and ticketing staff on low-paid, grueling work schedules by scandal-ridden Aerocare, now owned by Swissport.
The court stated Aerocare cannot force workers to do split shifts, knocking back the company’s exploitative business model which sees workers sleep at the airports and threatens safety and security.
Aerocare took the expensive Federal Court case in order to maintain its low cost business model after the Fair Work Commission in September 2017 ruled its split shifts were not permissible and that its rates went below the award.
“This is an important win for aviation workers in the fight for quality jobs that ensure safety and security at our airports is paramount. This judgment implies that airport workers should not be used and abused by their employers, brought in for three hour shifts at a time and forced to sleep on dirty floors, behind baggage carousels. We are now calling on Aerocare to stop exploiting their workers and to pay them fair rates,” said TWU Acting National Secretary Nick McIntosh.
“The Federal Government must take notice of this judgment and change the rules that allowed it to happen in the first place. We have been flagging problems at this company for several years and Government Ministers instead of stepping to protect workers have sided with the company. Safety and security are being compromised because of the practices of Aerocare with workers chronically fatigued and turnover rates among staff sky-high. The Federal Government must hold companies in the airport supply chain to account for labour practices, including the airports and airlines at the top which profit from companies like Aerocare,” McIntosh added.
Aerocare has been exposed over degrading conditions for workers, broken equipment, and security breaches.
Records from Sydney International Airport show 132 injuries were reported over a one-year period, among an Aerocare workforce 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.
An analysis by the TWU shows Aerocare pays its workers up to $1,000 per month below the award minimum.
Aerocare workers are guaranteed just 60 hours per month, with no weekly guarantees of hours. The company has even admitted in communications to employees to paying less than the minimum rate on Christmas Day and at Easter.
In addition to high injury rates and safety and security breaches, Aerocare staff report being forced back to work while still injured. Aerocare managers accompany injured staff into doctors’ surgeries during appointments.
Swissport, which bought Aerocare last year and which is owned by indebted Chinese conglomerate HNA, had revenues of $4.5 billion in 2017.
Australia’s four major airports – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane – reported a record-breaking over $2 billion profit according to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s annual Airport Monitoring Report.