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Virgin makes a deal with cabin crew, ending holiday strike threat

written by Jake Nelson | December 15, 2023

Image: Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has reached an “in-principle agreement” with cabin crew, forestalling the possibility of industrial action over the holiday period.

The deal, which includes pay increases of between 14 and 18 per cent over three years, as well as an extra six days off per year, recognition for unpaid standby time, and overtime after nine hours, comes after months of negotiations and an intervention by Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson.

“Under the new Enterprise Agreement, cost of living pressures will be easier for crew to manage, and lifestyle challenges will be easier to navigate,” Virgin Australia said in a statement.

“The agreement will deliver 15%+ salary increases over three years, depending on the skill and tenure of the crew member.

“And the overall cost of this agreement is in line with the agreements we have reached with other work groups.”


TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the deal will “substantially lift pay and conditions” for cabin crew after they had been left “battling long hours, gruelling rosters, and juggling second jobs to get by” due to pandemic emergency settings.

“From the start, cabin crew asked for terms and conditions that show they’re respected, heard and valued. Finally, crew have achieved a deal that will keep them in their jobs,” he said.

“This outcome shows the strength of workers bringing a solution-focused approach to bargaining and standing strong together to achieve it. Earlier this year, TWU ground crew, cabin crew and pilots provided Virgin owners Bain Capital with a plan to future-proof the airline with good, secure jobs and industry standards.

“It took longer than it should have, but this plan is now well underway with strong improvements to ground and cabin crew jobs. Pilots must be next, with ongoing negotiations resolved as quickly and respectfully as possible.”

Virgin ground crews reached an agreement with the airline last month, including creating more full-time positions and a commitment to avoid outsourcing as well as re-establishing the carrier’s job classification structure, while pilots are still in negotiations.

The deal comes days after Sir Richard Branson, on a visit to Australia to launch Virgin Voyages, said in a speech to staff that concerns about a potential strike were hurting Christmas bookings.

“I just would urge both sides just quietly sit down in a room, get it sorted, think about all your other employees,” he said in a video obtained by The Daily Telegraph.

“Managers have to manage for the long term to keep Virgin Australia going in five years, 10 years, 20 years. Unions have to try to get the headline numbers in the short term.

“If one section of Virgin Australia goes too far, that means every other section’s going to have to go too far, and very quickly the same thing that happened to Ansett could happen to Virgin Australia.”

Virgin cabin crews had overwhelmingly voted in favour of protected industrial action earlier this month if their demands were not met.

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