The TWU has sensationally suspended negotiations with Virgin Australia over new working terms for its members until it receives clarification that chief executive Paul Scurrah will not be fired.
The union scrapped a scheduled meeting at midday on Wednesday and wrote a letter to new owners Bain Capital seeking “clarification” on the situation.
However, Scurrah himself dismissed the rumours only this morning and added that they’ve been ongoing for quite a while.
It comes after he exclusively told the Australian Aviation Podcast earlier this month that Bain is “a really good owner” and said the relationship between the investors and the existing management team is like “a good marriage”.
The TWU, which claims to also have the backing of the ASU, VIPA, and AMWU, said firing Scurrah could also mean the airline moves away from being a ‘hybrid’ and slides towards being a low-cost carrier, which would likely result in more job losses.
The two sides are attempting to negotiate new enterprise agreements underpinning terms and conditions, which have expired.
“The ink is not yet dry on the sale of Virgin and it appears that private equity firm Bain Equity are behaving as we feared: ripping out the heart of Virgin and reneging on promises to the Australian people,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine. “We are suspending negotiations on enterprise agreements while we seek clarification on these developments.
“For our part, we are engaged in talks in good faith. If the plan and scope of the airline as outlined in August by Bain Capital has already been scrapped then this is a serious betrayal that must be addressed.”
The union will shortly send letters, seen by Australian Aviation, to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Bain chief Mike Murphy asking for clarification on the situation.
“We are deeply concerned by the media reports today that Virgin CEO Paul Scurrah has been sacked and that the airline is now shifting towards a low-cost model,” reads one. “We seek urgent clarification on the following: Paul Scurrah’s position and his future at the airline. Are there any plans for Mr Scurrah to depart his role?
“Is there any shift in the commitments Bain Capital announced in August ahead of Virgin’s sale, namely a commitment to retaining 6,000 workers, retaining regional operation Vara, tiered cabin classes, airport lounges and the airline’s international arm?
“The number of aircraft Bain plans to put into operation? Despite a promise of 75 aircraft there are just 56 ready for flying. We seek an urgent meeting to discuss these matters with you.”
However, Paul Scurrah said at The Australian Financial Review’s National Infrastructure Summit on Wednesday that “there’s been ongoing speculation for some and I’ve never been in the habit of commenting on speculation”.
Earlier this month, on the Australian Aviation Podcast, Scurrah revealed that the reborn business’ new strategy will see it become a “high-quality, value airline”.
He insisted the new-look airline would emerge from the pandemic with “75 plus” aircraft and offer a network “not too dissimilar” to what it had last year.
He also described Bain as “a really good owner” and said the relationship between the investors and the existing management team is like “a good marriage”.