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Virgin confirms stand downs but says numbers will vary

written by Adam Thorn | August 14, 2021
Virgin Boeing 737s in Melbourne YMML, as shot by Victor Pody
Virgin Boeing 737s in Melbourne YMML, as shot by Victor Pody

Virgin has confirmed it has begun standing down employees but refused to reveal the figure.

In an email to staff, chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said the number of people required to work will “vary from week to week” but all affected will be eligible for $750-a-week COVID payments.

It comes after weeks of speculation and follows similar moves by both Qantas and Rex.

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“I’m writing to let you know that consultation with unions regarding working arrangements for frontline staff across each of our bases … have concluded,” Hrdlicka said.

“Regrettably, the arrangements do involve reduced hours and/or temporary stand-downs for frontline staff at all bases. But they also include a minimum fortnightly payment for anyone affected, linked to available government support packages.

“We will do our best to manage the flexibility you have provided by considering your preferences where operationally possible. Our priority is getting our team, and our fleet, back in the air whenever and wherever we can.”

Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced the federal government’s new Retaining Domestic Airline Capability scheme, which would see airline staff outside of COVID lockdowns gain access to JobKeeper-style payments of $750 per week.

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Previously, stood-down workers in aviation could only gain access to financial support if they live in areas that are locked down, through the government’s general COVID-19 Disaster Payment scheme.

The new aviation COVID aid sparked widespread confusion when it was first announced, as early reports suggested the payments were only on offer to pilots and cabin crew, and would only be offered to 50 per cent of all stood-down staff members.

However, a spokesperson for the Deputy Prime Minister’s office later confirmed that “any frontline staff employed by an airline are eligible” for the aviation-specific support program, which does include all airport or ground workers employed by an airline, however, subcontractors are not eligible.

Earlier on Friday, Rex confirmed it will stand down 500 staff from Monday until at least 12 September.

Its stand-downs will include pilots, cabin crew, engineers, airport workers, call centre, ground and head office operational staff. However, remaining shifts on essential flights will be shared around between flight attendants.

“This arrangement for our flight attendants is a great example of a pragmatic and unified approach as we grapple with the devastating consequences of lockdowns and border closures which have ravaged the entire aviation industry,” said John Sharp, Rex’s deputy chairman.

Finally, at the start of August, Qantas announced it would stand down 2,500 employees for around two months.

The business group said the “temporary measure” was due to a drop in flying that saw its capacity reduce from almost 100 per cent in May to just 40 per cent in July.

Qantas gave staff two weeks’ notice with their pay continuing until mid-August.

Chief executive Alan Joyce said it was the “last thing the airline wanted to do” but maintained the situation was far better than this time last year.

“We’ve absorbed a significant amount of cost since these recent lockdowns started and continued paying our people their full rosters despite thousands of cancelled flights,” said Joyce.

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Virgin confirms stand downs but says numbers will vary Comment

  • Shano

    says:

    So the majority of ground services are now outsourced but no support for those workers who are now employed casually and are the lowest paid!

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