Qantas is facing another threat of strike action on Wednesday after refuellers based at Melbourne Airport signalled their intention to stop working for 24 hours.
The airline, however, said it was putting in place “contingencies” to minimise the disruption to passengers, while the airport added it remained in talks with workers.
The Flying Kangaroo is not directly involved in the talks with third-party supplier Rivet but is likely to be the carrier most affected by any potential action, alongside others such as Australian Air Express and DHL.
It follows Qantas cabin crew voting almost unanimously in favour of strike action after claiming they were being asked to work longer shifts and have shorter rest times.
The new strike this week by Rivet, which begins at 4 am, will predominately affect Qantas, which accounts for 60 per cent of its work.
The TWU, which is representing the workers, said it had been locked in negotiations for 12 months and argued staff were facing increased workloads and responsibilities but without better pay and conditions to match.
The union’s local assistant branch secretary, Mem Suleyman, said, “For a year, Rivet refuellers have tried to reach a fair agreement but have instead been faced with base wage freezes which impact their pay now and long into the future.
“In the current cost-of-living crisis, it is unacceptable to expect workers to pick up extra responsibilities and work harder, faster and longer to make ends meet.
“These are workers in one of the most dangerous jobs in the airport, yet they are being pushed to the limit while pay and conditions fail to attract more workers to share the load.
“Although protected industrial action is always a last resort, these workers know it is the only option left to bring the company to a fair agreement.”
Suleyman accused Qantas CEO Alan Joyce of “gloating” about its $1 billion half-year profits and said staff were “struggling under the pressure”.
Qantas insisted in response there had been no changes to flights out of the airport on Wednesday.
“Once we have more details from Rivet about the impact of the planned strike by their workers, we can put in place contingencies such as carrying additional fuel from other airports to minimise impacts to our customers,” a spokesperson responded.
The action is thought to involve all but two of the 44 employees.
Rivet executive chairman Mark Rowsthorn told the Sydney Morning Herald the company’s last offer was “very close” to what was being asked for.
“This package has gone unanswered, and we’ve requested they respond in writing,” he said.
“We think the threat of industrial action is unnecessary and have written to them on Monday morning for clarification, so we can properly understand their position.
“We have a small team in Adelaide and the team in Melbourne. It will be up to the airlines to try to mitigate the disruption. We just don’t have enough staff to deploy them from elsewhere.”
It follows a series of disputes with third-party staff ending in a settlement in recent months.
Last year, Dnata catering staff and Menzies ground handlers called off a vote on industrial action after securing pay rises and job security protections in September.
Dnata ground handlers also called off a planned 24-hour strike after securing an immediate 12.6 per cent pay rise.
Finally, Airport firefighters cancelled strike action planned for the Christmas holiday period after agreeing to a 4.9 per cent pay rise.