Virgin Australia cabin crew have overwhelmingly voted for protected industrial action if pay, job security and work/life balance concerns are not met.
The TWU ballot saw 99 per cent of participating cabin staff vote in favour of 24-hour work stoppages, while an average of 98 per cent voted in favour across all possible actions including shorter stoppages and overtime bans. In total, 90 per cent of Virgin cabin staff participated.
This result means cabin crew have won the right to take protected industrial action under the Fair Work Act pending three days’ notice to Virgin, though no decision has yet been made to trigger a strike.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the result shows Virgin staff have “reached the end of their tether” after three years of “wage freezes and punishing rosters”.
“It’s time for owners Bain Capital to show workers their concerns are understood and fix key issues driving high turnover and chronically low morale. Hollow words from executives in virtual town halls when respect is not being shown in action at the table is adding insult to injury as the busiest time of year approaches,” he said.
“No one wants to see exhausted cabin crew servicing planes. Workers need reasonable rosters, decent working hours, better work-life balance, and crucial job security guarantees.
“Virgin workers above and below the wing have put forward sensible proposals to ensure a strong future for the airline and its workforce. In ground handling, we have now seen a good response with a strong enterprise agreement offer. Cabin crew and pilots deserve the same fair treatment, and certainty of pay and conditions before the festive peak.”
In a statement, a Virgin Australia spokesperson told Australian Aviation that the airline has “put a substantial offer on the table which provides real relief” for cost of living pressures on its employees.
“In the last financial year, Cabin Crew received a minimum of nine per cent-13 per cent of their base salary through a combination of EA and Award driven wage increases, a six per cent profit share payment, a discretionary $500 cost of living payment, and discretionary increases to allowance increases and bonuses. We also paid over $2 million in additional payments over Christmas 2022,” the spokesperson said.
“Virgin Australia has made an offer to the FAAA and the TWU valued at $50 million over three years. This equates to nearly 40 per cent of our first year profit in 11 years. It includes base salary increases of at least 15 per cent. For some, the base salary will be up to 32 per cent above Award minimum rates.
“The original claims from unions equated to a minimum 63 per cent increase in the annual Cabin Crew cost base by the end of the 3 year agreement, including a 29 per cent wage increase. It is disappointing the unions have yet to commit to any meaningful concessions to what are a patently excessive set of claims.”
Virgin ground crew last month called off planned strike action after winning key concessions, including on creating more full-time positions and avoiding outsourcing. The TWU at the time said Virgin would re-establish its classification structure “after it collapsed when ground workers’ pay needed to be bumped up to award minimum rates”.
“The correction to job classifications means experienced workers who sacrificed the most will receive the highest pay increases between 8-20 per cent in the first year, followed by a universal 6.5 per cent increase across the subsequent two years of the agreement,” the union said.
“Workplace safety will improve through commitments to introduce an extreme weather policy and roster team numbers to a safe standard, as well as correcting poverty pay that had led to workers juggling second or third jobs.”