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Strike action on the table for Virgin ground workers

written by Jake Nelson | October 24, 2023

Virgin Australia ground workers. (Image: Peter Chrismas)

Virgin Australia ground workers could be set to strike over pay and conditions as enterprise agreement negotiations drag on.

TWU workers have applied to the Fair Work Commission for a Protected Action Ballot (PAB), accusing Virgin and its regional arm, Virgin Australia Regional Airways (VARA), of refusing to correct what it describes as “poverty pay, insecure work, and safety issues”.

The workers are asking for a “fair correction” to award-minimum pay as well as more full-time jobs and part-time hours, improvements in rostering and minimum crewing numbers, provisions for extreme weather, and recognition for acting in higher duties.

If the application to the FWC is successful, workers will vote on whether to take protected industrial action, with cabin crew also flagging a possible PAB.

According to TWU national assistant secretary Nick McIntosh, both ground workers and cabin crew have reported needing second jobs due to low pay and “unsustainable” rosters.


“The message we’re receiving loud and clear from TWU members above and below the wing is that Virgin must correct poverty pay, insecure work and unsafe conditions, otherwise workers will have to walk away from jobs that have become unsustainable. These are workers that have remained loyal to Virgin through thick and thin and are devastated that it has reached breaking point,” he said.

“Virgin now has some of the lowest pay and conditions across the industry and is turning a deaf ear to its workers, including by failing to commit to a five-point plan for a better future.

“If this is how Bain Capital intends to run the airline, passengers should brace for disruption as turnover increases and workers are pushed to pursue protected industrial action to achieve safe and sustainable conditions.”

There have so far been six meetings between VA and TWU representatives, with the airline recently putting forward a three per cent pay rise in the first year of the new EA, followed by further three per cent annual increases in years two and three.

“We are in the process of negotiating a new enterprise agreement for our Pit Crew employees,” a Virgin spokesperson told Australian Aviation.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith with our people and the Transport Workers’ Union.”

In July, workers gave Virgin a list of five key demands to address workplace issues they said were causing stress and fatigue.

The union said it wanted Bain to commit to addressing “cultural issues” that have caused “high turnover, absenteeism and disputation”; providing “good, secure jobs” for pilots, ground staff and cabin crew; continuing to invest in technology, fleet and workers to “maintain and grow safe, fair standards”; providing an annual $1,000 employee share scheme in conjunction with the IPO; and supporting the TWU campaign for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission.

Virgin had previously enjoyed a decent relationship with its workers, with CEO Jayne Hrdlicka in 2020 striking a deal for a pay freeze in exchange for promises no jobs would be outsourced.

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