Workers protested at all main airports on Tuesday over poor pay and conditions as a report shows low standards are impacting on aviation safety and security. Protests also took place around the world as part of a global day of action by airport workers.
Protesters demanded an end to forced part-time hours that sees workers rostered to work as few as three hours a day and just 60 hours a month. Coupled with this, low pay and split shifts are forcing some workers to sleep at airports.
“My work roster changes week to week. Sometimes you can do overtime but it has to be on split shifts,” ramp and cargo worker Bob Popovski told media at the protest. “Split shifts are a major concern for all of us. Sleep patterns and family life are affected. Job security is really bad.”
A TWU report to the Productivity Commission inquiry on airport regulation links the poor conditions to safety and security breaches. The report calls on the Federal Government to mandate that airports and airlines take responsibility for labour standards in their supply chains.
“When service providers bid for contracts, workers are rushed in and there’s not enough time to train them,” Popovski continued. “That’s where accidents happen and that’s our biggest concern.”
“Airports and airlines are engaged in a public war of words over who is ‘gouging’ from who, but it is airport workers who are the real losers. Beyond the shiny facades of our airports and outside the slick airline lounges, workers are struggling to pay bills and are even forced to sleep at work. High staff turnover rates and poor conditions are impacting on safety, security and services. Airports and airlines at the top of the supply chain are highly profitable and they must be held to account for this,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
The TWU report shows some aviation companies have almost their entire workforce on part-time hours. At the same time profits for the main airports were over $2 billion in 2016-17, while Qantas Group made profits of $1.6 billion.
Glaring examples show the impact on safety and security. High turnover means staff without full security clearances are accessing secure areas of the airports; in Sydney airport there were 132 injuries among a staff of 324 over a one-year period; in Perth airport an Aerocare baggage handler forced to unload an aircraft alone allowed passengers onto secure airside to collect their own baggage. Overseas Jetstar cabin crew are working domestic routes with no training on how to board domestic aircraft and base pay as low as $100 per week.
The report also shows airports and airlines outsource much of their work to companies without any required labour standards.
“Billions of dollars in public money are being poured in to building airports and there should be a better dividend for the community than what is currently happening. Billions of dollars are also being poured into trying to make our airports more secure while poor labour standards are clearly affecting safety and security. The Federal Government must put a stop to the race to the bottom in aviation. It’s not just the workers that are at risk here. It’s only a matter of time before something gives and there are no second chances at 30,000 feet,” Mr Kaine added.