Virgin Australia and the TWU are among 14 signatories of an industry open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to extend JobKeeper payments for aviation workers.
The scheme is due to end in March but the group argues that without both domestic and international borders open, it is impossible for the sector to mount a full recovery.
The letter was seemingly created in response to comments by Secretary of the Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy, who this week said it would be unlikely the country would open to the world this year.
Its current signatories are the unions the TWU, ETU, AMWU, ALAEA, FAAA, AWU, VIPA and AFAP; and the businesses Virgin Australia, Menzies, dnata, Gate Gourmet and Swissport.
“As unions and employers representing tens of thousands of workers and contractors across aviation, we urge you to implement an ‘aviation keeper’ wage subsidy to ensure that the aviation industry can sustain the lasting impact of the pandemic while maintaining and supporting its skilled and highly trained workforce,” reads the letter.
“For those companies and workers who could access it the JobKeeper payment has been a lifeline, enabling workers to maintain ties with their employer and to support themselves and their families.
“It has allowed eligible companies to retain their trained, experienced staff so they are ready to return to their jobs when possible.
“For those not allowed access to the payment, the past year has been extremely difficult with families facing turmoil, debt, housing stress and loss and the constant threat of job losses. At least 1,000 dnata workers volunteered for redundancy to help them pay some of their debts.”
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.
The letter, therefore, asks for the scheme to be extended to those omitted and be phased out as borders open and confidence returns.
The government has previously hinted a so-called AviationKeeper could be possible, however, just this week Treasurer Josh Frydenberg rejected extending the scheme to the similarly affected hospitality sector.
TWU assistant national secretary Nick McIntosh said, “We need a plan to keep aviation going while borders remain shut otherwise more jobs will be lost, which would be devastating for working families, tourism and the economy’s ability to recover.
“The aviation industry has endorsed AviationKeeper as a strong solution. We invite the Morrison government to discuss this plan with us now, before the fast-approaching cut off from JobKeeper.”
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