The industry group representing ground handlers has warned 6,000 jobs are likely to be lost if there isn’t financial help for its members when JobKeeper expires in September.
The Australian Aviation Ground Handlers Industry Alliance said, “We may not be as well-known as the airlines, but we are the ones doing plenty of the heavy lifting. We need clarity and support from government. Without aviation ground handling staff, there are no flights.”
The group’s intervention comes shortly after the government announced in June it would delay making a decision on whether to extend the JobKeeper initiative, but hinted the aviation industry would receive some form of financial aid.
Oceania Aviation Services managing director Bruce Stokes, speaking on behalf of the AAGHIA, warned that losing jobs in ground handling would have a “domino effect” on the economy and “curtail national economic growth for months”.
“The aviation ground handling sector protects Australians from terrorists, illegal narcotics and organised crime, and sustains the $69 billion air transport industry, that directly and indirectly supports 716,000 jobs.
“The sector operates on slim margins so it needs large volumes of aircraft movements to survive.
“While interstate travel restrictions are expected to ease in coming months, forecast domestic travel demand will only return to 50 per cent of capacity by the end of the year, well past the ending of the JobKeeper support package in September 2020.
“By that time, the aviation ground operations sector may have permanently cut thousands of jobs, some of which are highly specialised and technical in nature, in order to carry on.”
The AAGHIA currently represents around 75 per cent of the industry and its members include Oceania Aviation Services, Aus Flight Handling, Menzies, Precision Aviation, NTL Aviation Services and Swissport.
The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-effected business with $1,500 per employee, per fortnight.
Companies are then legally obliged to pass that payment onto workers in a bid to keep the economy active during the pandemic.
More generally, the scheme has proved problematic for much of the aviation industry.
Many airport workers are locked out of the financial package because their firms are council-owned; while staff at dnata were similarly told they were no longer eligible because their company is owned by a foreign government.