The TWU has said there is now “no excuse” for the government not to extend JobKeeper to omitted airport workers after it emerged the scheme is $60 billion under budget.
National secretary Michael Kaine said, “Thousands of airport workers for almost two months have had no pay, their leave and savings have been exhausted and they are terrified about their families’ future.”
On Monday morning, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told the Today program he accepted blame for the apparent reporting error, which means the aid package will only cost $70 billion and cover 3.5 million Australians, rather than $130 billion and 6.5 million as forecast. However, he insisted that there are no plans to open it up to more workers.
The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-affected businesses with $1,500 per employee, per fortnight. The companies are then legally obliged to pass that payment onto workers in a bid to keep the economy active during the pandemic.
Previously, Australian Aviation has reported that dnata staff were told they were no longer eligible because their company is owned by a foreign government, while many airport workers are similarly locked out because their firms are council-owned.
“There is now simply no excuse for the government not to pay airport workers the Jobkeeper Payment,” said Kaine. “Airport workers who clean the planes, prepare in-flight meals, get baggage onto and off aircraft and help get planes into the air pay their taxes in Australia like other workers across Australia.
“They deserve to be supported during this crisis, which saw the federal government introduce restrictions which have almost shut down the aviation sector. These workers will hear about this reporting error of $60 billion and wonder why they cannot be paid Jobkeeper Payment like everyone else.”
Earlier this month, the Labor MP whose constituency covers Sydney Airport slammed the government’s JobKeeper package for ignoring workers at a press conference at Terminal 2.
Kingsford Smith’s Matt Thistlethwaite said it was unfair that dnata staff were excluded: “These people live in Australia, work in Australia, pay taxes in Australia and contribute to the Australian economy. These deserve the support of the Australian government.”
Meanwhile, dnata told Australian Aviation the decision to exclude them would put 4,500 jobs at risk.
The catering and ground handling business claims the Tax Office originally said it could apply for the aid, but then reversed its decision because the company is owned by a foreign government.
A dnata spokesperson said, “The application of the scheme was critical to the company’s Australian employees, as it meant that we could reinstate previously stood down workers, and keep the rest of the workforce employed.”
Dnata is owned by the Emirates Group, which is in turn run by the state government of Dubai.