Staff at Newcastle Airport face being stood down without access to JobKeeper because the business is ineligible for the government subsidy.
Australian Aviation understands the business can’t claim for the handout because of its local government ownership structure, which mirrors a similar situation faced by Victoria’s busiest regional airport, Mildura.
Newcastle Airport chief executive Dr Peter Cock said on Thursday he has applied to the Industrial Relations Commission to allow the business to temporarily stand down workers, with a hearing set for 25 September.
“This is something we hoped we would never need to consider, however, the ongoing economic impact of closed borders has made our situation untenable,” said Dr Cock.
“Our passenger traffic and related income have been decimated since late March, however, to date, we have managed to keep most of our permanent staff employed throughout the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, in the short term this cannot continue, though for the sake of the region we need to be able to ramp up quickly to take advantage of the recovery when it inevitably occurs.
“We have been unsuccessful in securing JobKeeper funding, despite continuing to prosecute our case with the ATO. This has clearly placed more financial strain on the business.”
The JobKeeper package was introduced to provide coronavirus-effected business with an initial $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.
However, the scheme has proved problematic for much of the aviation industry.
Many airport workers, such as those at Newcastle, 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.
In May, the chairman of Mildura Airport has become Australia’s first airport boss to call for the JobKeeper scheme to be extended after it emerged the initiative was $60 billion under budget.
“We are owned by the government but we’re a private company with one shareholder, which is Mildura City Council,” explained O’Donnell. “We’ve never gone to the council for operational support. We’ve been fully self-sufficient but we can’t access any of the support.”