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Refuellers’ strike looms as Ampol staff vote for industrial action

written by Jake Nelson | July 8, 2024

An Ampol fuel truck at Sydney Airport. (Image: Ampol)

Ampol airport refuellers have voted overwhelmingly for protected industrial action.

92 per cent of workers participated in the ballot which opened last week, voting unanimously in favour of strikes, which would allow around 50 refuelling employees at Sydney Airport to take action in coming weeks and months absent a fresh deal by Ampol.

Four-hour, eight-hour and 24-hour strikes could be on the table for an indefinite period if Ampol does not address the workers’ demands, including comparable pay to its competitors; guaranteed part-time hours and a preference for full-time roles; “genuine consultation and inclusion” with workers; and an improved dispute resolution process.

TWU NSW/QLD state secretary Richard Olsen said that strike action is a “last resort” and called on Ampol to come to the table with a “reasonable offer” to avoid it.

“These workers are dedicated to staying in the industry, but they simply cannot afford to let their wages and conditions deteriorate any further,” he said.

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“Demand for aviation is booming but jobs have become second-rate, led by an obsession by privatised airlines and airports with obscene profits. Workers are looking for better hours for part-timers and more full-time positions so they have job security for themselves and their families.

“At airports nationwide, workers are overburdened and exhausted as they strive to keep flights running smoothly, yet they continue to struggle with wages barely above the legal minimum and few guarantees around rostered hours.”

Olsen added that the potential action strengthens unions’ case for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to better regulate the aviation industry.

“The aviation industry’s short-term, profit-driven focus driven by Qantas’ race to the bottom has brought us to crisis point in aviation,” he said.

“We urgently need a Safe and Secure Skies commission to set fair standards across the industry and ensure we have highly skilled and experienced workers from the baggage room to the cockpit.”

Ampol, which serves Virgin Australia as well as Qantas’ domestic, international and freight aircraft, has previously said it was “continuing to work through its enterprise bargaining agreement with its Sydney Airport refuelers team”.

“Negotiations remain ongoing and in good faith, with contingencies currently being considered should the possibility of operational disruptions arise,” a spokesperson said.

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