TWU and Virgin pilot union to merge

written by Adam Thorn | November 13, 2020
Virgin Australia 737-8FE VH-YIV
A Virgin Australia 737-8FE lands at Melbourne YMML (Victor Pody)

The TWU and the Virgin’s pilot union are set to merge after the organisations signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday.

The unions hope to formalise the deal in the coming weeks and the news comes as they are both negotiating new working terms for Virgin staff.

Association for Virgin Australia Group Pilots (VIPA) president, John Lyons, said it “makes sense to stand together to push for Virgin’s future”.

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“An amalgamation would allow us to develop and deepen this co-operation and to fight for one of Australia’s most important industries,” Lyons said.

“The Australian economy depends on a robust aviation industry and we intend to push for its survival.”

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the pair “worked very well together” during the past few months after Virgin went into administration.

“Our common aim has been to help make Virgin the strong second airline again that Australia needs,” said Kaine.  “We know that the way to do this is through Virgin’s dedicated and well trained workforce.

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“By coming together we can make a strong case for high standards and work to protect the interests of those who matter most: Virgin workers and the travelling public.”

VIPA and the TWU were two of a number of unions that last month suspended negotiations with Virgin Australia over new working terms when rumours swilled that chief executive Paul Scurrah was to exit, as transpired.

The two unions eventually returned to the negotiating table after receiving information by new owners Bain “reconfirming” the carrier’s plan to become a mid-market hybrid and not a low-cost carrier.

The news came after Scurrah eventually announced his exit to be replaced by former Jetstar boss Jayne Hrdlicka.

His departure is significant because he was synonymous with the airline’s plan to operate as a mid-market ‘hybrid’ rather than reverting back to being a low-cost carrier like predecessor Virgin Blue.

Hrdlicka, meanwhile, also had a notoriously fraught relationship with unions in her earlier role at the Qantas Group.

Earlier this week, Australian Aviation reported that the Federal Court on Tuesday knocked back a final plea from shareholders to halt the sale of Virgin Australia to Bain.

The decision means the company will finally exit administration early next week but will leave many of those who invested in the company without any return at all.

While Bain beat out Cyrus Capital Partners in May to become the administrator’s preferred bidder, the decision needed to be waived through by parties owed money. The airline’s bondholders had threatened to table a rival bid, but pulled out late in August leaving Bain’s victory as a formality.

A comprehensive restructuring of the business means it will emerge from administration with 3,000 fewer jobs and without the Tigerair brand.

2 Comments

  • Steve

    says:

    There are in fact 2 separate Pilot Unions at Virgin (and not including SALPA at VARA), VIPA and the AFAP. The AFAP are NOT merging with the TWU.

  • Dale

    says:

    Absolutely no mention that VIPA is one of TWO unions covering Virgin Pilots. The larger of the 2, the AFAP, has no ties with the ACTU, being an independent Federation. How about some clarity of the position?

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