New Union division vows to tackle job security, fatigue as pilot survey reveals safety concerns

Transport Workers' Union

The new TWU Pilots division which launched today has vowed to address the biggest concerns pilots are facing: job security, safety concerns around rostering and fatigue management, and pay and conditions going backwards, according to a recent pilot survey.

TWU Pilots is the result of a merger between the Transport Workers’ Union and Virgin Independent Pilots’ Association which was recently approved by the Fair Work Commission.

A recent survey asked pilot members from both unions working across multiple companies about their greatest concerns to be prioritised by the TWU Pilots division and its members.

Overwhelmingly, pilots are concerned about the safety implications of rostering practices, with 92% listing roster instability as a key concern, 88% saying they’re concerned about fatigue management, and more than half saying roster uncertainty is pressuring pilots to work while tired or unfit to fly.

The other top concerns were:

  • 95% said pay and conditions are going backwards
  • 89% said there’s a growing trend towards insecure work
  • 87% are concerned about the threat of outsourcing to their job security
  • 79% expressed concerns about pilots’ mental health

Qantas Group pilots are angry about being pressured to sign onto substandard agreements under duress through threats of outsourcing.

Of the 150 pilots who participated in the survey, 79% have been a pilot for more than 20 years. Several commented that industry conditions are the lowest they’ve ever experienced.

One pilot said: “Very few pilots would view this as a sustainable career in the long term anymore. We have no job security, are asked to work more for less and have no control of our lives due to rostering practices.”

Another commented: “Morale is at an all-time low. The pandemic is being used as an excuse to erode wages and conditions that have taken over 20 years to achieve.”

A third said: “In 20 years in aviation I have never encountered the issues as bad as are currently presenting themselves – in all departments across the airport.”

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said: “We’re thrilled to launch TWU Pilots, a new division which draws upon the TWU’s aviation campaigning strength and VIPA’s expert pilot knowledge and industrial experience. Recent attacks on job security and underhanded tactics by Qantas to suppress pay and conditions show how crucial it is for pilots to come together like never before and lead the charge for good, secure jobs.

“Bringing pilots into the TWU means all aviation workers benefit from the might of collectivism, from the ground and baggage room right through to the flight deck, giving aviation workers the best opportunity to lift standards across the industry.

“The survey shows that pilots are struggling like other aviation workers trapped in a race to the bottom, exacerbated by illegal outsourcing and strongarm schemes under the Joyce regime. The results show workers continue to bear the brunt of aviation’s peaks and troughs while profit-fanatic executives draw bonuses and exorbitant salaries. We need a Commission to rebalance aviation, support good jobs, and ensure Australians can always rely on safe and secure skies.”

TWU Pilots General Manager Warwick Renton said: “Being a pilot is pursued by most as a secure and prosperous job for life. Instead, pay and conditions are in reverse and the threat of outsourcing across the airports is making pilot jobs more insecure, and less desirable. Safety is impacted by maxed out and unstable rostering which makes it near-impossible to manage fatigue, make plans with family or even book medical appointments. This cannot continue. We are committed to reversing this downward trend and the work has already begun. Today, pilots are meeting to forge the way ahead to lift standards across the sector.”

The TWU and other aviation unions recently criticised a conditional $5000 payment announced by Qantas as the airline attempting to buy workers’ silence and compliance over shoddy wage freeze deals.

Full results from the TWU Pilots survey can be found here.

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