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Qantas plays down disruption fears over new refuellers’ strike

written by Jake Nelson | April 18, 2023

Victor Pody shot this Qantas 737, VH-VXA

Qantas has said its passengers will not face disruption on Wednesday despite Rivet refuellers at Melbourne Airport again walking off the job for 24 hours.

The Transport Workers’ Union of Australia (TWU) said it will engage in “crisis talks” with Rivet, which supplies fuel to Qantas as a subcontractor for ExxonMobil, this afternoon to see if an agreement can be reached on pay, entitlements, and rostering. Other carriers potentially affected include Australian Air Express and DHL.

“Most of the work done by Rivet refuellers is for the Qantas Group, for which the company is subcontracted by ExxonMobil. Both Qantas and ExxonMobil posted record profits earlier this year. Meanwhile, Rivet refuellers haven’t had a pay increase for three years,” the union said in a statement.

Though Qantas’ contract is with ExxonMobil rather than with Rivet directly, the TWU is nonetheless pointing the finger at the national carrier over the impasse.

In a Senate inquiry last year, it was revealed that Qantas contracts out to 21 external companies, with 17 lower-paying subsidiaries for “essential aviation jobs”.


The union is therefore accusing the airline of “dictating pay and conditions at arms-length through low-cost contracts”.

“These workers perform a dangerous and essential job for airlines, namely the Qantas Group. We know that pressure from low-cost contracts makes it harder for workers to reach a fair and sustainable enterprise agreement because the purse strings are being pulled from above,” said TWU Victorian/Tasmanian branch secretary Mike McNess.

“Qantas management knows it can exert commercial power to keep pay and conditions low, which is why it has pushed as many workers as possible outside of its business, including through illegal outsourcing. We need a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebalance aviation and prioritise good, secure jobs so we can get back to the reliable service Australians deserve.”

A Qantas spokesperson told Australian Aviation that the Flying Kangaroo is putting “contingency plans” in place, and that services would not be affected by the strike.

This is the second Rivet strike announced in as many months, following industrial action at Melbourne in March that spurred Qantas to fly an A380 loaded with fuel from Sydney to Melbourne in order to mitigate the effects, resulting in only five cancellations across its Melbourne services for the whole day.

The A380, VH-OQL, was freshly returned from the Victorville boneyard post-pandemic, and has since returned to active service.

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