Qantas passengers flying internationally face disruption on Monday, 12 September after Dnata ground handlers voted to strike for 24 hours.
The TWU revealed on Sunday morning that 96 per cent of those polled agreed to the move, which will see 350 employees across Brisbane, Sydney, and Adelaide airports stop working.
It comes after Qantas outsourced 2,000 in-house ground handling roles to third-party companies, including Dnata and Swissport last year.
The Federal Court twice ruled that decision breached the Fair Work Act, but crucially said those employees won’t be able to get their old jobs back and instead must accept compensation.
The vote on industrial action, including potential strikes, opened on last Monday and closed on Friday, 2 September. It could also potentially affect those travelling on Emirates and Etihad, which also utilise Dnata ground handlers.
The union’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, argued his members are facing a “downward spiral of wages and conditions” and are only guaranteed 20 hours per week.
“Ground handling is a highly-skilled job, but thousands of experienced workers have been forced out of the industry by Qantas’ illegal outsourcing and the Morrison government refusing Dnata workers JobKeeper,” said Kaine. “Those that are left are scrambling to pick up the pieces for scraps.
“Qantas management’s strategy to dictate low wages and conditions from afar has turned once sought-after aviation careers into insecure jobs no one can afford to stay in. For many, it’s now a choice between going on strike for decent conditions or being forced to leave the industry.
“Workers understand the commercial pressure they’re under from Qantas, but Dnata and Menzies must act responsibly and come back to the table to settle a fair deal or risk losing more staff.
“We need to rebalance aviation towards good, secure jobs that keep skilled workers in the industry and ensure the safety of the travelling public. The Albanese government should act urgently to implement a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to establish fair standards across the industry.”
Dnata told Australian Aviation its pay offer was “highly competitive” and argued the TWU had shown “little willingness” to bridge the divide on outstanding issues.
“Only part of our team are TWU members and therefore able to take industrial action,” it said in a new statement. “There is also no guarantee that just because an employee is a member of the Union, they will take industrial action even if the union seeks to.
“We continue to directly engage with our employees to discuss with them the position of our business and the value which is on offer as part of our wages proposal and are hopeful that even if industrial action is pursued by the union, it will not be strongly supported by our employees.
“We have sought the assistance of the Fair Work Commission to narrow the issues in dispute between Dnata and the bargaining representatives. We have two days on the 6 and 7 September before the Commission, and we are hopeful they will be able to support the parties to come to an agreement.
“The TWU’s recent activities add to the existing challenges in the aviation industry, increasing the risk of disruption to the plans of thousands of Australian travellers in an extremely busy travel period. We are working closely with our valued airline partners across Australia to keep them informed on the situation.”
The TWU also revealed Menzies workers in NSW and Victoria would apply to the Fair Work Commission to hold a separate protected action ballot.
Strike action would likely cause yet more disruption for passengers after figures recently released showed July was the worst month on record for poor performance, with just 54 per cent of flights departing on time.
Incredibly, it came after previous record lows were recorded in both June and April.