The Transport Workers Union has urged the government not to bailout “scandal-ridden” Swissport unless any deal includes equity and “strict conditions on labour standards”.
The ground operations company has asked for a $125 million rescue package to mitigate the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus crisis. It’s owner, HNA Group, is also one of the main shareholders in Virgin Australia Group, which entered administration on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, national secretary Michael Kaine urged Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to think twice about a straightforward bailout to save the company, despite the business admitting it may have to cut 80 per cent of its workforce to survive.
“This is a company that has ripped workers in Australia off for years to the tune of millions of dollars and forced them into the most degrading working conditions. The government must take a stake in Swissport and supervise strict lifting of labour standards,” said Kaine.
“It must clear out its senior management team, which has for years devised and overseen the exploitation of workers in Australia.”
Instead, the union has urged the government to create a “national plan” on aviation to create a “new type of aviation industry”.
The TWU and Swissport, formerly called Aerocare, have a long-standing bad relationship, with accusations, denials and legal action taken.
In 2019, for instance, the Federal Court of Australia ruled Swissport workers couldn’t be forced to work split shifts following a series of disputes in the Fair Work Commission.
Unions have also previously accused Aerocare of forcing employees to sleep in “camps” at airports, something the company vigorously denied.
However, the TWU previously urged the state governments to bail out Virgin Australia, after Queensland was the first to offer assistance.
“We ask that you consider these workers and to examine your state’s capacity to give them and their families the certainty they need about their future,” it said.
“We believe it is also in the interest of the travelling public that Virgin remains a viable airline to ensure an efficient, reliable service right across Australia. A monopoly by one airline after this crisis ends will hamper the nation’s ability to restart and get back to where it was.”