The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has announced a series of four hour work stoppages for its Qantas workers on September 20, with up to 3800 union-aligned baggage handlers, ground staff, catering, freight and other transport employees across Australia taking action over a five per cent pay increase and various other job security concerns.
Qantas has condemned the strike action, and is “currently developing contingency plans to minimise disruptions” to passengers travelling on September 20, according to spokeswoman Olivia Wirth.
“This is a coordinated campaign by three unions, with the pilots’ union, the licensed aircraft maintenance engineers’ union and the TWU all taking some form of industrial action over this period,” Wirth said.
The TWU is demanding from Qantas a five per cent per annum pay increase for its next enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs), an additional one per cent compulsory employer superannuation contribution for every year of their EBAs, a requirement that all casual staff are paid the same rates as permanent Qantas staff and a requirement for site rates.
“The so-called ‘new spirit’ that Qantas has spent millions on advertising in the last three weeks hasn’t been on show during months of negotiations with Qantas management. TWU members in ground crews, presentation staff and catering have been seeking certainty from management about new terms of pay, conditions and job security since the old enterprise bargaining agreement expired months ago,” TWU lead negotiator Scott Connolly said.
“Qantas has become the airline it is and has weathered international financial storms and other hard times because of its staff, who have put up with enough,” he added.
However, Wirth asserted Qantas’s TWU employees “are already the highest paid in the Australian aviation industry”, with their Virgin counterparts paid 12 per cent lower wages. “The TWU is demanding significant pay increases and new restrictions on labour flexibility which would make Qantas less competitive and prevent us from responding to volatility in the aviation industry…We are willing to offer reasonable pay increases but the latest demands from the union are unreasonable,” Wirth argued.
The four hour work stoppages are expected to be rolled out across airports along the eastern states from 7am, with Cairns (9am) and Canberra (3pm) to follow, while action in WA will begin at 5am WST.