Jetstar blackmail forces low-paid workers to accept deal

Low paid Jetstar workers have voted for an enterprise agreement after the company threatened they would not receive rate increases owed from March 2019 if they voted it down. The company informed workers this afternoon that the vote had passed but has not revealed the vote result.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine has criticised the intimidation and threats from the company and commended the workforce for standing up and taking strike action in December and February.

“It is not easy to stand up at your workplace along with your mates and say no to your manager. Jetstar workers did this for as long as they could but for low-paid workers the prospect of being denied money from a rate increase that was due a year ago was too much. The lack of hours these workers struggle with means many live pay-check to pay-check. Jetstar knows this and therefore chose to force this deal on workers using disgraceful blackmail tactics,” Kaine said.

The TWU criticised the Federal Government for failing to hold airports and airlines to account over underemployment and poverty wages in aviation.

“Thousands of workers across the airports are underemployed, some on as few as 60 hours a month. They are left scrambling for extra hours to feed their families and pay their bills. This is happening as it was revealed by the ACCC this week that Australia’s four main airports made $2.3 billion in profit while Qantas made $771 million in just six months. Our Federal Government is standing by and allowing this to happen at a time when underemployment and low wage growth is dragging our economy down,” Kaine added.

With a potential coronavirus pandemic looming the TWU is calling for Qantas to work in partnership with its workers. “We need an end to the corporate dictatorship at Qantas and for the company to start working in partnership with workers. With the potential worsening situation of the coronavirus ahead, Qantas will need to rely on its best asset, its workers. That can’t happen if it continues to send out dictates and refuses to negotiate. We have already had a worker suspended over daring to raise concerns about the coronavirus. This is not a productive or forward-thinking way of dealing with a crisis,” Kaine said.

Airport workers have submitted claims to all major airports demanding: the same rate for doing the same job; secure work with regular hours; safety and security as the number one priority, rather than a focus on engaging work to be carried out for the lowest cost possible.

The airport claim is part of a plan to ensure accountability among powerful, wealthy companies at the top of the transport supply chain, including airports, and make sure they pay their fair share. It will involve widespread industrial action this year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire.

A survey of Jetstar workers shows almost 80% of Jetstar workers say they struggle to pay household bills because of the lack of guaranteed hours. Over 45% stated they have had to contact their banks to ask to delay payments on loans while almost 90% say they want more hours.

One worker said: “I have to work seven days a week just to get 38 hours a week. I work around 340 days a year just to support my family. I have a wife and a son which I barely see because of the six-day, 30-hour roster.”

Jetstar workers accepted an 18 month wage freeze in 2014-1016 to help Qantas when it was in financial difficulties. A report this week shows workers will lose up to $200,000 in wages and superannuation because of the wage freeze. Jetstar told workers they would not receive a bonus Qantas announced last year after it made bumper profits because they took strike action.

The Qantas CEO earned $24 million while the Jetstar CEO earns $3.7 million.

Jetstar has yet to comply with two improvement notices from SafeWork NSW related to dangerous understaffing and broken equipment. Workers are at risk of “serious injury” from being “crushed” and “ingested” by aircraft, one notice said.

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