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TWU and VIPA unions merge as Virgin negotiates pilot terms

written by Adam Thorn | May 5, 2021

Virgin Australia 737-8FE VH-YIV
A Virgin Australia 737-8FE lands at Melbourne YMML (Victor Pody)

The TWU and the Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) have confirmed their merger as the pair attempt to negotiate a crucial deal with the airline over pilots’ working terms.

Virgin has already signed off enterprise agreements with cabin crew, engineers and ground crew, but those in the cockpit are the last major group to sign off.

VIPA president John Lyons said his members deserve to work in an industry that recognises their training and dedication, not one where standards are continually being lowered.

“We are proud to merge with a union which will help boost the voice of pilots and give us added strength across the industry, whether in dealing with employers or in achieving regulatory reform,” he said.

The plan, first mooted in November last year, will see a new pilots’ division created within the larger organisation that will include special representation and loss of licence protection for members.


The two unions will become one in July subject to a vote, but the merger was originally planned to take effect in December 2020.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the pair are facing similar attacks on their pay and conditions within the industry.

“Amalgamation will give our members a stronger voice not just in Virgin but across the aviation landscape,” said Kaine. “Both unions are focused on lifting standards in aviation and using our collective strength to achieve that.

“We are putting the federal government on notice that workers right across the airport are united and that we will hold them to account over safety and service standards in aviation.”

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

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

Last week, Virgin cabin crew overwhelmingly agreed on a new enterprise agreement with the airline, with 89 per cent of staff voting through the deal.

It follows five agreements approved by staff last year that were negotiated between the TWU and new chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka.

The agreement with the TWU, FAAA, ASU and ALAEA saw employees accept an 18-month to two-year pay freeze in exchange for a guarantee that no jobs will be outsourced.

The deal was seen as a coup for the former Jetstar boss given her notoriously bad relationship with unions over the years.

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Comment (1)

  • Kaptin M


    The TWU has been trying, unsuccessfully, to rope pilots into their ranks, for decades.
    Pilots didn’t see it as being the public’s best interests, by grounding aircraft, and shutting airlines down, because of disputes in unrelated transportation modes.
    VIPS is still struggling to stay relevant, so they’ve accepted the TWU poisoned chalice.

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