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TWU calls Bain’s silence on Virgin board ‘underwhelming’

written by Adam Thorn | August 17, 2020

Virgin Australia 737-8FE VH-YIV
A Virgin Australia 737-8FE lands at Melbourne YMML (Victor Pody)

The TWU has called ‘winning’ Virgin bidder Bain’s reluctance to state exactly who will be on the new board “underwhelming” as relations between the parties appear to strain.

Australian Aviation understands the union’s relationship with Bain is unravelling because the group will not publicly comment on speculation former Jetstar chief executive Jane Hrdlicka could be the new chairman. Hrdlicka had a notoriously fraught relationship with unions in her role at the Qantas Group.

The comments are significant given the business’ employees together account for 9,020 of the total number of creditors and are owed $451 million.

While Bain beat out Cyrus Capital Partners in May to become the administrator’s preferred bidder for the airline, the decision won’t be rubber-stamped until a final creditors meeting in early September, with the TWU’s backing likely to be crucial.

The statement comes as Virgin’s bondholders are in the Federal Court fighting for permission to put their rival bid to shareholders against Bain’s.


The TWU told Australian Aviation in a statement, “The reconstruction of Virgin is more than a narrow commercial consideration. A healthy and robust second airline will power Australia’s recovery from COVID.

“The board of the new Virgin must explicitly recognise that staff are critical to this mission and emphasise co-operation, rather than confrontation. The board must not view its workforce as another expense line like jet fuel or landing fees, but as an investment in a strong and prosperous future.

“Unfortunately, the responses we have received on the make-up of the new board are underwhelming. We are approaching a critical phase, with a vote on the deal on September 4 and negotiations on jobs. Our members are committed to rebuilding Virgin, but we will not expose them to a crude rip off where jobs and conditions are decimated.”

Previously, the TWU has broadly supported Bain’s involvement. In particular, the organisation refused to criticise ‘winning’ Virgin bidder Bain for its plan to axe 3,000 roles and scrap the Tigerair brand.

It said that while the announcement would lead to a “difficult day” for affected employees, the decision to avoid becoming a solely low-cost carrier was “broadly positive”.

Virgin Australia’s bondholders have already vowed to repay ‘winning’ bidder Bain for the money it’s pumped in to keep the airline flying should its rival proposal be successful and promised a union seat on the board.

The group, consisting of Broad Peak and Tor, said its bid would provide “an immediate better return” and has the backing of more than 14 major financial institutions including UBS, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank.

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Comments (9)

  • Edward


    Why has a Union such ‘heavy input’ to this business deal?
    Quite scary, especially if they’re pushing for a seat on the possible Virgin Board.
    What damage can this bring about?
    IF Bain is eventually successful, don’t think they’ll want to be at unions’ beck & call.

  • Al Ch


    Once again a Union is holding hostage the company that employs its memberw. I guess not having a job is better than having one according to unions. They are so short sighted. I get workers rights…I do but the unions make it so hard to get anything done.

  • john


    The TWU strikes again. They want to pick the chairman of the board!! Oh boy, it seems they will never learn.

  • Ian


    Bain hate unions with a passion.

  • Rod Pickin


    I have to declare previous considerable activity within this “union airline arena”and these days whilst I am happy to accept that some staffers seem to insist/need some union support, the wider aviation community realises the quite serious damage that has been caused to the industry by over zealous demands for further pay and conditions and changes to work practices; – even at one stage leading to the total shut down of QF. That is why we have so many ground handling companies and why considerable engineering activities are managed out of house, – I am happy to accept industry representatives on a consultative council basis etal but to include them in a board makeup of a today multi million dollar enterprise does not compute as I am sure there is an agenda there. Now I am also sure that I will be reminded of one successful union board member within an airline but let’s face it, there aint too many like him.

  • Paul


    Bain should not bow to union demands. Bain will when ready announce their board composition. Rightly they are waiting for the creditors meetings approvals before commenting further. Plus nobody knows what the courts are going to do with the bondholders current case in the federal courts.

  • Craigy


    I wish this Virgin fiasco would come to a conclusion sooner rather than later. I am sick of it and the moaning from the TWU.

  • Bruce R Kendall


    And the TWU’s expertise in running a successful business is?????

  • Vannus


    To Bruce above…..

    Pulling airline staff out on strike continuously is what their ‘expertise’ is.
    QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce & the Board sure pulled the rug out under them in Oct 2011 by grounding the QF Fleet, due THREE months’ of mostly daily strikes’.
    That’s an action they never expected.
    Since then union Mbrship has dropped hugely.

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