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Stoush over boots clogs up RAAF Richmond strike negotiations

written by Jake Nelson | July 18, 2023

Striking maintenance workers at RAAF Base Richmond in Sydney’s west. (Image supplied)

Striking maintenance workers at RAAF’s Richmond base have been asked to give up their boots allowance in exchange for back pay, the union has said.

According to the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), the C-130 Hercules maintenance workers were recently offered a larger rise and back pay by Airbus Australia Pacific in exchange for giving up their boots and first aid allowances.

This follows a May offer of an extra pair of work pants per year as an incentive to accept a small wage rise.

“I’ve never seen a company so fixated on employee’s clothing, it’s a bit weird if you ask me,” said AWU NSW Branch Secretary Tony Callinan, who added he was “gobsmacked” that Airbus was attempting to “use clothing as a bargaining chip”.

“Usually in negotiations we talk about annual pay rises, overtime arrangements and the like, I’ve never seen a company so obsessed with clothing, offering pants one minute, asking workers to give up boots the next,” he said.


RAAF Richmond’s 100 Hercules maintenance workers have been engaged in industrial action over what the union says is a “substandard” and “pitiful” pay offer that does not keep pace with inflation. The workers were offered a 7.5 per cent pay rise over three years, which was unanimously rejected in December; they have since been locked out by Airbus as the strike continues.

Callinan lambasted Airbus over the suggestion to trade away the first aid allowance, which is a weekly payment to workers with first aid qualifications enabling them to act as first responders in an emergency.

“Asking workers to trade away an entitlement that encourages a positive safety culture shows the type of disregard Airbus Australia Pacific have for their workforce,” he said.

In a statement, an Airbus spokeswoman told The Australian that the workers themselves had proposed giving up the allowances.

“Safety is a top priority at Airbus, and in no way will we compromise on this,” she said.

“During the dialogues, employees proposed the removal of boots and first aid allowances, which we agreed to while ensuring ongoing workplace efficiency, safety and operational compliance. We reject any suggestion that the company is seeking to compromise employee safety through any trade-offs in this negotiation.”

When contacted by Australian Aviation with Airbus’ claim, Callinan responded bluntly: “It’s bullshit.”

Airbus has indicated it is seeking conciliation via the Fair Work Commission.

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