australian aviation logo

Air traffic controllers begin voting on strike action

written by Jake Nelson | April 8, 2024

An air traffic controller at work in Melbourne’s tower. (Image: Airservices)

Air traffic controllers have filed a protected action ballot with the Fair Work Commission.

The ballot, which closes on 1 May, was filed by ATC union Civil Air. If successful, protected industrial action could include bans on ATC training and overtime, as well as work stoppages of up to 24 hours, and comes amid accusations of understaffing and poor work/life balance.

Civil Air had signalled its intention to file for industrial action late last month, saying a “deadlock” in enterprise negotiations had yet to be broken despite 14 meetings with management since November.

“Airservices was clearly warned on multiple occasions about the white-hot anger and despair that exists among employees due to the torrid workplace environment, and the appetite to pursue further action if claims were not met,” Civil Air’s Peter McGuane told The Australian.

“They chose to ignore these warnings.”


Airservices has hit back against the claims by Civil Air, saying the real reason for the industrial action is a pursuit of a 20 per cent pay rise.

An Airservices spokesperson said the government-owned corporation, which is responsible for air traffic management across Australian airspace, has offered an 11.2 per cent pay rise over three years, totalling $78 million, and the retention of all current conditions.

The spokesperson noted that this is in line with the Australian Public Service Commission’s recent pay decision.

“Civil Air is now calling on its members to vote in a ballot seeking approval for a campaign of industrial action in support of a number of claims that would cost an additional $140 million on top of our offer,” the spokesperson said.

“As an industry-funded organisation, Airservices needs to balance any request to increase our operating costs with its potential impact on the industry and the travelling public.

“The range of potential actions on which Civil Air members will be asked to vote includes work stoppages of up to 24 hours which could disrupt the travel plans of tens of thousands of Australians and international visitors.”

The spokesperson added that Airservices is working to increase staffing levels, including by hiring and training new ATCs and that it has made its employees and the union aware of its progress.

“It is concerning that Civil Air is now proposing to direct their members to refuse to participate in the training of new ATCs, potentially delaying their commencement,” the spokesperson said.

“Airservices will take all available steps to minimise disruptions to flights as a result of industrial action, and will work with airlines and airports to maintain safe operations.

“Airservices is seeking to finalise the new agreement without interruption to the travelling public while delivering a fair outcome for our ATCs, so that we can continue working together to safely manage access to our skies and connect Australia to the world.”

The news comes as aviation rescue firefighters, who are also employed by Airservices, prepare to take industrial action on 15 April.

Civil Air has been contacted for comment.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member today!

Leave a Comment

You don't have credit card details available. You will be redirected to update payment method page. Click OK to continue.