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Industry open letter to PM calls for JobKeeper extension

written by Adam Thorn | July 7, 2020
Virgin Australia Airbus A330-300 VH-XFG arrives at Townsville. (Dave Parer)
Virgin Australia Airbus A330-300 VH-XFG arrives at Townsville. (Dave Parer)

Virgin and five other ground handling and catering companies have penned an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking him to extend the JobKeeper scheme beyond September for aviation.

The message, also signed by six unions, asks the payment to apply to all workers in the industry and run until domestic and international borders open.

It comes a week after the government announced it would delay making a decision on whether to extend the initiative, but hinted the industry would receive some form of financial aid.

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The letter, which can be read in full here, states, “We need a unique response to ensure that planes can return to the skies and companies can remain operational for when we all need them.

“There is much talk of flights restarting yet we know it will take months, if not years, for anything resembling normality to return and that there are not only thousands of jobs on the line because of this, but the very viability of multiple employers as well.

“For those not allowed access to the payment, the past few months have been very difficult with families facing turmoil, debt, housing stress and loss and the constant threat of job losses.”

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said, “We are at a critical moment where businesses and jobs are just about clinging on but without a signal of ongoing support they will be lost.

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“The federal government needs to urgently decide if it will risk mass redundancies in aviation and the knock-on effect of impeding a bounce-back from the pandemic.”

Late month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinted he would hold off announcing whether to extend the JobKeeper scheme after it expires in September. It was initially thought the decision would be announced at the end of June.

However, he clarified there will definitely be a “next phase” of support, though the government will take its time in deciding its composition.

“There’s still a lot of work to do there and that’s what we’re focused on,” PM Morrison said. “There are many moving parts in this, this is not a simple issue.”

He also gave his strongest signal yet that the aviation industry specifically would benefit.

“Whether it be Qantas or those in the entertainment sector or the tourism, hospitality sector, or regions like north Queensland, we get it, we understand that they are going to be hurting more for longer than other parts of the economy,” the PM said.

After the Qantas Group announced it was set to axe 6,000 staff, chief executive Alan Joyce revealed he had personally asked for industry support beyond September.

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.

FULL LIST OF SIGNATORIES

Unions

  • The Australian Services Union
  • The Transport Workers’ Union
  • The Electrical Trades Union
  • Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union
  • The Association for Virgin Australia Group Pilots
  • Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia
  • Australian Workers’ Union
  • Australian Federation of Air Pilots

Businesses

  • Virgin
  • dnata
  • Menzies
  • Cabin Services Australia
  • Gate Gourmet
  • Swissport
  • SNP

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3 Comments

  • Alan Bond

    says:

    Well Scott Morrison has another problem on his hands and that is the majority of airport workers also live in the shire to which his federal seat of cook also sits and I have stated this in emails to his website that if this job keeper payment is finished in September and come next election he could find himself out of a job just like the airport worker’s and I know it’s hard for D’nata people because their employer is of a foreign government and yet they pay their taxes to Scott Morrison and josh and Mathias,so he has to think real hard before September.

  • Paul

    says:

    Seriously? This looks more like a union initiative. International flights are at least 12 months away. So the government is expected to pay these people for 12 months while they sit at home? Bain have not released their full plans but what we have heard is that Virgin will only be domestic initially, and scaled down. Once domestic is operating stop the payments in my view.

  • Phillip

    says:

    Look at the line-up of unions’. We all know how they like to act.
    Do they really think they’ve got any pull with an LNP Fed Govt?
    Unions’ have become irrelevant, their members’ have deserted in THOUSANDS!
    Virgin’s maybe-owner, Bain Capital should be very wary of them, too.

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