The Transport Workers Union has accused Jetstar of “disgraceful blackmail tactics” after the airline bypassed the union to reach a deal with striking groundstaff and baggage handlers.
Jetstar, however, claims the majority of workers voted for a deal, which they said includes rostering improvements and a 3 per cent pay rise over the next four years.
On 19 February, the TWU claimed 250 staff walked out for a third time demanding a minimum 30 hours of work per week and an annual wage increase of 4 per cent. The airline responded by pro-actively cancelling 48 flights and later insisting just 69 people left their posts.
After the deadlock was finally broken, the TWU on Saturday argued staff only voted for the deal because they would not receive rate increases owed from March 2019 if they voted it down. Australian Aviation understands the airline negotiated backpay as an additional benefit for its workforce, despite it not being a right.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “It is not easy to stand up at your workplace along with your mates and say no to your manager. Jetstar workers did this for as long as they could, but for low-paid workers, the prospect of being denied money from a rate increase that was due a year ago was too much.
“The lack of hours these workers struggle with means many live pay-cheque to pay-cheque. Jetstar knows this and therefore chose to force this deal on workers using disgraceful blackmail tactics.
“Thousands of workers across the airports are underemployed, some on as few as 60 hours a month. They are left scrambling for extra hours to feed their families and pay their bills.”
Jetstar chief executive Gareth Evans hailed the deal, and accused the TWU of a “campaign of misinformation and inaccuracies”.
Evans said, “[Their] campaign was part of their broader national fight against airports and airlines, and which disrupted the travel plans of thousands of Jetstar customers over summer.”
He claimed the pay rise would be almost double the rate of inflation.
Last week, an investigation commissioned by the Transport Workers Union claimed Jetstar workers would lose nearly $200,000 in lifetime pay because of an 18-month wage freeze instigated in 2014.
The report by think tank The Australia Institute stated that staff could lose up to $150,000 in wages and $40,000 in superannuation because of the “cumulative impact” of the action.
However, Jetstar played down the findings, claiming it was part of the TWU’s industrial campaign.
On the day of the strike, Australian Aviation reported that Jetstar operations were “largely unaffected” by the walkout.
The strike was the third to take place in as many months by Jetstar employees, as union members continue their dispute with the airline over more guaranteed working hours, appropriate training for staff and better working conditions.