Low paid Jetstar baggage handlers and ground crew will take protected industrial action next Wednesday February 19th as the company tries to force workers to accept an agreement which is even worse than the current agreement they are on.
Over 250 workers will hold a 24-hour strike on Wednesday at Sydney, Melbourne, Avalon, Brisbane, Cairns and Adelaide airports.
Jetstar workers are the lowest paid in the Qantas Group with many guaranteed no more than 20 hours work per week. Jetstar has rejected their claims for a guaranteed minimum 30 hours a week, stable rosters that don’t constantly change, a commitment to engage Jetstar employees rather than untrained, exploited labour hire workers and appropriate pay rates for workers continually performing higher duties.
In response Jetstar has presented an agreement deliberately designed to keep Jetstar workers impoverished which will also allow the company to demote them without consultation, make it more difficult for workers to take personal leave and reduce redundancy payments. Jetstar has said if workers do not accept the substandard agreement it will refuse to pay them backpay to March 2019, which would amount to thousands of dollars per worker and enforce another wage freeze. Jetstar workers have already been told they will not receive the bonus Qantas announced after its bumper $1.3 billion profit last year because of their strike action in December.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Jetstar workers were united and determined to fight for their jobs and their families’ futures. “Jetstar workers do not take this decision lightly and we apologise to members of the public who will be unable to fly on Wednesday. But these workers are in the fight of their lives for a decent standard of living, to be able to put food on the table and to ensure they and their kids have a future. At the moment that future is bleak. The company is forcing underemployment onto these workers, making them desperate for more hours to boost their low incomes. Jetstar workers are utterly baffled as to why they can’t get a guarantee for 30 hours a week when they can see that the work is there. It is obvious that management are behaving belligerently, attempting to bully these workers and leave them dangling for more work. Workers are given no option but to strike next week,” he said.
“The problem at Jetstar is happening right across the fragmented aviation industry. Multiple airlines and aviation companies are in a race to the bottom, financially squeezing their workforces to make a profit. It means families are suffering. It means safety and security are being compromised at the airports every day,” said Kaine.
Jetstar workers went on strike twice in December and then announced a moratorium to allow people to get home for Christmas and for the bushfire relief in January. Workers met management twice in recent weeks to discuss their claims but all were rejected. Jetstar has said it will force workers to vote on the deal they have rejected. In December, 94% of Jetstar workers voted to take protected industrial action.
Jetstar has been engaging more exploited labour hire staff since the December strikes, including workers at Swissport, which the Fair Work Commission ruled last year was a paying workers below minimum award rates and conditions.
Workers are also concerned about safety and 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.
Jetstar made revenues of $4 billion this year while Australia’s four major airports, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, made over $2.2 billion in profit last year, according to the ACCC.
The Jetstar vote is a kick-start to a major industrial campaign planned from June right across the road and aviation transport networks.
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.