Nearly three-quarters of aviation workers would not be able to support their family if JobKeeper is scrapped in March, according to a survey by the Australian Services Union (ASU).
The organisation said its survey of 500 members in the sector also revealed 43 per cent had accessed their super, 41 per cent deferred school fees and other expenses and 50 per cent are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent.
JobKeeper payments are set to end nationwide at the end of March, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has remained tight-lipped as to whether it would continue for some affected industries.
ASU assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske said the situation is “urgent” for many of those questioned.
“Many airlines workers have already sold their family homes, drained their superannuation savings and have nothing else to fall back on,” said Gaske. “If JobKeeper is cut, the vast majority of airlines workers will no longer be able to support their families.
“The government has an opportunity to prevent the catastrophe airlines workers are facing in mere weeks. We need the government to continue JobKeeper for airlines workers.
“The government needs to recognise that aviation was the first to be hit by the pandemic as borders closed, and in all likelihood will be the last to recover.
“With the majority of flights still grounded due to the pandemic, airlines workers and their families desperately need ongoing income support through JobKeeper.”
The report also revealed that 30 per cent of respondents were currently not working any hours, compared with 65 per cent employed close to full-time pre-COVID. Currently, just 18 per cent are working at that level, according to the ASU.
In total, the organisation said 72 per cent would not be able to support their families if JobKeeper is withdrawn.
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The news comes after Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka told a Senate committee earlier this month that ending JobKeeper for the aviation industry would be “devastating”.
Hrdlicka added it might be “impossible” for the business to “bear the financial cost” of operating in a market where borders are opening and closing without warning.
“We cannot predict when it will end,” said Hrdlicka. “We don’t know whether we have two more years to go. We don’t know whether we have two weeks.”
Hrdlicka’s plea was made shortly after an industry open letter was sent to the Prime Minister urging an ‘AviationKeeper’ payment.
It was signed by the businesses Virgin Australia, Menzies, dnata, Gate Gourmet and Swissport and the unions the TWU, ETU, AMWU, ALAEA, FAAA, AWU, VIPA and AFAP.
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.
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