Professionals Australia has claimed CASA has let staffing numbers at its Southern Region office drop from 53 to just 24, which it argues is causing “excessive overwork”.
The union also accused the organisation of pushing employees “to the brink” by a “broken workplace culture” in comments released to coincide with its submission to a senate committee investigating CASA’s effectiveness.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack rejected the concerns and said CASA is confident it has the “necessary number of qualified staff” to provide essential services.
The Senate rural and regional affairs and transport legislation committee is currently investigating the state of general aviation in rural Australia.
In comments released alongside its submission, Professionals Australia director Dale Beasley said CASA’s staffing numbers had dropped and its Southern Region office has had “six different managers in seven years”.
“CASA’s stubborn refusal to replace these vacant technical air safety positions has resulted in excessive overwork, a major reduction in face to face audits and fewer field inspections, and the impacts are being felt right across the country,” said Beasley.
“In Brisbane, the number of CASA Safety Systems Inspectors was reduced from six to just 1.4 full-time positions.
“This meant that despite the significant changes and potential risks impacting Virgin Australia, CASA had no inspector specialising in change and risk management assigned to the team oversighting the airline.
“This has occurred as Virgin entered into administration, slashed operations and jobs, placed aircraft into storage or sold them off.”
Beasley added that CASA staff are being let down by “dysfunctional senior management”.
“At a time when Australia’s aviation sector is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 induced economic downturn, it’s absolutely vital that CASA has the workplace culture and safety systems to support the industry throughout this vital period of rebuilding,” he said.
However, Deputy PM McCormack played down the concerns and said the government will take any recommendations from the Senate committee’s findings on board.
“We are committed to supporting a strong and sustainable aviation industry. Aviation safety remains essential and ongoing even though regular passenger transport operations are currently reduced,” said Deputy PM McCormack.
“That’s why our government has ensured the Civil Aviation Safety Authority is appropriately funded over the 2020–21 financial year, enabling them to maintain necessary staffing levels and provide the level of service expected by the flying public.
“CASA has said it is confident it has the necessary number of qualified staff to provide its essential services. CASA uses a centralised, cross-regional office approach to the assessment and approval of regulatory service applications, which allows for the required workforce availability.
“CASA staff feedback provided through the 2019 Australian Public Service Census indicated strengths in their workplace culture. This includes strong employee engagement (72 per cent of respondents agreeing), strong feedback that staff are proud to work at CASA (77 per cent) and aligned to the organisation’s values (91 per cent), as well as high levels of engagement and confidence in their direct managers (78 per cent).”
The Senate committee will present its interim report on or before the final sitting day of December 2020, and its final report on or before the final sitting day of November 2021.