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Airport chaos was ‘entirely predictable’, says TWU

written by Hannah Dowling | April 14, 2022

TWU Michael Kaine 1
The TWU’s national secretary, Michael Kaine.

The extensive delays and long queues seen at airports over the last week were “entirely predictable” and represent poor planning on the part of airlines, airports and governments, the Transport Workers’ Union has said.

According to TWU national secretary Michael Kaine, the delays, caused largely by understaffing issues, come as a direct result of the “mass exodus” of capable and trained aviation workers from the industry, after airlines collectively let go thousands of workers, through redundancies and outsourcing.

The TWU said that those who remain in the industry are working fewer regular hours and that the growing trend of outsourcing workforces to overseas-owned companies mean workers doing the same job for different companies could now be doing so under dramatically different pay and working conditions.

“Under the Morrison government, aviation has become a highly outsourced sector, which means casual workers paid less for doing the same job as directly employed workers,” Kaine said.

“Many of these international companies that are outsourced to, such as Dnata and SNP Security, didn’t get JobKeeper. Unsupported workers left the sector entirely and now don’t want to come back to casual, low-paid jobs with bad conditions.”


As such, Kaine said that “staffing shortages were entirely predictable”.

“The Morrison government failed to secure the aviation workforce by denying workers employed by international companies JobKeeper. They’ve left the sector and don’t want to return to casual low paid work with poor conditions,” he said.

In light of this, the union has long called for a “national recovery plan” for the aviation sector, which focuses on regulating working conditions across the industry.

“Without a national recovery plan, the industry remains exposed to external shocks like COVID-19 variants, exorbitant fuel costs, natural disasters and international unrest,” the union said in a statement.

“Specifically, the TWU wants to see a Safe and Secure Skies Commission put in place to lift standards at the airport and end spiralling underemployment, with stressed out workers doing the same jobs on vastly different rates and conditions, jeopardising safety.”

Kaine added: “Workers deserve a national plan which puts them at the centre of rebuilding aviation.

“To do that, workers need a commission with powers to lift standards throughout aviation and protect secure jobs. Complimenting a commission must be funded programs to support workers retrain and reconnect to the jobs they lost during the pandemic, and targeted spending to reduce COVID risks and maintain public confidence in air travel.”

It comes as airports and airlines continue to warn of extensive delays at airports over the long weekend and warn domestic passengers to arrive at the airport at least two hours before their flight.

Sydney Airport is expecting to see its busiest day for domestic air travel in over two years on Thursday, with 82,000 passengers set to pass through the terminal.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said: “I know it’s a difficult message to hear but Thursday is going to be another tough day for travellers, and I want to apologise in advance to anyone who is inconvenienced.

“[That day] and right through the school holidays we are pulling every lever available to us to get people on their way safely, including deploying senior executives and staff into our terminals to manage queues and ensure people make their flights.

“We’re also working with our security contractor, airlines, ground handlers and other operational agencies to make sure we have as many staff on the ground as possible for the morning and afternoon peaks.

“We continue to have up to 20 per cent COVID-related staff absences on any given day and we’re working to rebuild our workforce in a really tight job market,” he added.

Melbourne Airport is similarly expecting a jump in passenger numbers between Thursday and Monday, with an anticipated 380,000 in total.

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Comments (4)

  • Rod Pickin


    I have to say it is probably the first time in my decades within this industry that I have witnessed such happenings at K.S.A. Unfortunately Mr. Kaine is in the main correct but I will excuse his enthusiasm for including the Govt. and the P.M. in this matter because I believe there is an election coming soon and the opposition and their support financial bases are professional at heaping fuel on the fires when they should be choosing retardant. The current embarrassing delays in QF passenger processing may well be in the main as a result of cost cutting and outsourcing of tasks but those are due entirely to wage and conditions pressures exerted upon the company by folks such as the TWU supported by the ACTU and the Fed. Opposition which place the airline in an unprofitable operating situation leaving the company the only option that of cutting costs to remain solvent. In addition to these recent events we have seen much QF route expansion then, oops, we haven’t got crews to operate some sectors, we also have some A/C optg. severely weight restricted sectors way beyond what the A/C was designed for and probably at a financial loss too whilst the intended A/C for that use are still asleep in the desert and their crews grounded no doubt on gardening leave plus we are still behind the mark in not firming up orders for new aircraft currently under an intent to purchase and not training up the needed support operating team for them as well.
    After this Easter debacle it has to be time for a major rethink and a rejig of operations, maybe some folks are in the wrong jobs, maybe some should broaden their employment options; one thing is for sure, we cant continue like this!

  • Tony Maddock


    TWU bashing the hands that feed still, so boring! Fact is there is a pandemic and this is merely a consequence of that. The Australian industry has done Australia proud during this period from the baggage handlers to the CEO’s, well done. This bloke should get his hand dirty and get in and help, or is he too busy thinking about pre-selection in a safe ALP seat?

  • Nicholas


    Here’s another thought.

    Perhaps people shouldn’t all be like lemming’s and want to rush off at times when its predictable that it will be extremely busy, so then when you do do this, don’t complain, it was predictable.

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