Ground crew from aviation services company Dnata have today announced they will file an application to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote on strike action during ongoing disputes over pay and conditions.
An approved application by the Fair Work Commission would give employees the ability to hold a protected action ballot, which could lead to further industrial action, including strikes, in the future.
According to the Transport Workers’ Union, the attempt comes after Dnata’s management put forward a new enterprise agreement that “gives pay cuts to experienced workers” and operates “below award minimum conditions.”
The union noted that many of Dnata’s experienced workers have stood by the company throughout pandemic stand-downs, despite being ineligible for Jobkeeper, due to the company being overseas-based.
It comes after Dnata employees recently quashed a “costly plan” for the company to employ workers from the Philippines while refusing to increase hours for part-time workers or introduce more permanent full-time positions, the Union said.
It also comes after a concerning spike in safety incidents at airports, such as a belt loader that crashed into a parked aircraft, or a plane that took off with locking pins left in its landing gear.
An internal memo was reportedly sent to Dnata workers acknowledging an increase in aircraft and equipment damage, that informed employees not to blame being “under the pump” when things go wrong.
In response, employees have informed management that “chronic understaffing, airport chaos, and safety incidents” will continue to pose a threat should the company refuse to offer secure jobs and liveable wages to attract and retain workers.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said while industrial action was always a last resort, overworked, exhausted workers can’t allow their pay and conditions to go backwards.
“Dnata workers struggled through two years of stand down with no financial support from their employer or the Morrison government.
“After standing by the company through the hardest times and now working well beyond safe capacity while rosters are severely understaffed, the most experienced workers are facing pay cuts while conditions are below Award minimums.”
Notably, Dnata is one of the offshore third-party companies that was awarded ground handling contracts by Qantas, after the airline outsourced the remaining of its 2,000 ground staff last year. The Federal Court has since ruled this decision was a partial violation of the Fair Work Act.
“Dnata workers are the latest casualties of the Qantas administration’s agenda to drive down wages and conditions,” Kaine said.
“Despite picking up a large portion of the outsourced work, Dnata is still attacking the financial security of its workforce, calling into question the profitability of its contracts with Qantas.”
In response, a Dnata spokesperson said the company is “dedicated to the restart of Australian aviation” and remains “committed to ensuring our employees are appropriately compensated and able to complete their roles to the highest standard.”
“We stay committed to working with our trade union partners and continue our conversations with the Transport Workers’ Union and employees in good faith while working to minimise the impact of a potential industrial action on our customers’ operations. We have and will continue to prioritise Australian jobs and our local workforce.
“The safety and security of our staff, customers and their customers are our number one priority. We have a robust training programme as well as comprehensive and stringent measures in place that ensure the highest level of safety across our operations.”
Meanwhile, the TWU continues to call for a ‘Safe and Secure Skies Commission’ that focuses on regulating working conditions across the industry.
“The Albanese Government must draw a line in the sand and introduce an independent Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebalance the industry towards secure jobs with decent conditions and away from the corporate greed that’s ruining Australia’s once thriving aviation industry,” Kaine said.