Protests take place at airports around the country today as underemployed Jetstar workers go on strike and a shocking survey shows almost 80% of them have been injured at work.
According to the survey, low pay, a lack of hours and unsafe conditions are causing stress, marriage breakdown, financial hardship, horrific injuries and even near-death incidents for Jetstar workers.
The 24-hour strike was called after Jetstar broke off talks with its workers on Monday February 10 and put a “final offer” on the table without allowing for negotiations on it. Hundreds of other airport workers facing similar conditions will join striking Jetstar workers for protests at the airports.
The survey shows almost 80% of Jetstar workers have been injured at work, 100% say they know a colleague who has been injured while 70% say they have had to operate broken or faulty equipment. Workers list injuries including repeated hernias, injured wrists, injured backs and crushed limbs.
One worker states: “I was nearly killed when I was crushed between two baggage containers in the back hold of an A320”. The worker adds: “There are many, many more incidents/accidents that have happened and continue to happen.”
Deliberate understaffing is causing many injuries. Another worker states: “I have seen more injuries than I can count, almost all are due to rushing which is an inflow effect from lack of staff.”
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.
The survey also shows almost 80% of Jetstar workers say they struggle to pay household bills because many are guaranteed no more than 20 hours a week. 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 stated: “Stress, pain, agony, relationships failure. Don’t wanna be with family because of the feeling too poor to do things with them. Can’t afford to be with them.”
Another 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.”
Michael Kaine TWU National Secretary said: “This survey is utterly shocking and reveals the desperate situation Jetstar workers are in. Workers are fearful of going to work because of the terrifying injuries they are forced to sustain. They can’t spend time with their families because of the constant chase they are in for more hours. When they are off work they are ashamed of the poverty they have placed their families in. This survey shows how hard-working Australians are living without dignity and in desperation.”
“The Jetstar dispute is not a pay dispute. This strike and this battle is a stand against underemployment and for decent, safe jobs at the airport. Behind the shiny facades of our airports this is what life is like for thousands of workers: injuries, poverty and scrapping by. The aviation industry is booming. Workers should not be forced to struggle in this way,” Kaine added.
Jetstar workers are the lowest paid in the Qantas Group and were forced to take an 18 month pay freeze when the company experienced financial difficulties in 2014. 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.
Jetstar has said if workers do not accept the substandard agreement it is putting to a vote 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.
The TWU has welcomed a call by Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter for talks in the dispute to resume. Neither Mr Porter nor Tourism and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham have responded to a TWU invitation to meet Jetstar workers.
Jetstar workers held strikes in December but called a moratorium over Christmas and during the bushfire relief effort.
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. Jetstar’s CEO earns $3.7 million while the Qantas Group CEO earned $24 million.