Rex purchase of Virgin planes shows government support for aviation is partisan: TWU

The Federal Government is supporting the flailing aviation industry in a partisan way, pumping taxpayers’ money into Rex so it can buy Virgin planes while refusing to give Jobkeeper to workers employed by foreign government-owned companies.

Media is reporting today that Rex is buying some of Virgin’s aircraft, after receiving $54 million from the Federal Government. Rex’s deputy chairman was the honorary federal treasurer of the National Party between 1999 to 2017.

Michael Kaine TWU National Secretary said the issue highlights the lack of a plan for the entire aviation industry and a partisan approach.

“Thousands of aviation workers struggling for months without Jobkeeper are angry to read today that Rex is receiving significant government help, allowing it to buy planes. Thousands of Virgin workers about to lose their jobs are also frustrated to realise that the Federal Government refused their company’s cry for help but is pumping money into another operator. The entire aviation industry needs assistance, not just one small carrier which has close political links to the Coalition. This is an entirely partisan way to deal with an industry in crisis,” he said.

“The way the Federal Government is handling the crisis in aviation means the industry may not up to the challenge of helping to get the economy back in shape. Tens of thousands of vital skills and experience are about to be lost through mass redundancies, yet the Government has no strategy for the future. This is in stark contrast to governments around the world which have been pro-active in supporting their aviation sectors,” Kaine added.

The TWU is also concerned about Jobkeeper being paid to workers of companies which have then paid dividends to shareholders.

“The point of Jobkeeper was to allow companies shut down by the pandemic to go into hibernation and retain their staff. The idea that companies should be making profits and paying out to shareholders while receiving Jobkeeper is another slap in the face for those who have been left out of the payment and those about to lose their jobs,” he said.

Australian workers at companies like Dnata have been shut out of Jobkeeper because of changes the Government made precluding them because their company is owned by a foreign government. Virgin announced last week 3,000 redundancies while Qantas is seeking 5,000 redundancies. The Federal Government has refused repeated calls to get involved in the Virgin administration process rather than acting as a mere observer.

Aviation workers have endorsed a national plan they want the Federal Government to implement which would see it take a greater role in regulating the industry, including: equity stakes for struggling businesses; ensuring workers are paid the same rate for the same work; making safety a number one priority; ensuring all airport workers stood down have access to Jobkeeper; and capping CEO pay.

This week the Fair Work Commission quashed another substandard enterprise agreement by aviation ground services company Swissport, at the centre of a scandal over its workers forced to sleep at the airport.

“Persistent Government inaction has led to workers in aviation being ripped off and left destitute. Four years on Swissport is still trying to get a shoddy agreement passed the Fair Work Commission. The Government stands idly by and lets workers get abused in this way,” Kaine added

A survey shows 70% of aviation workers have been stood down from their jobs with almost 40% stating they have no income. Over 1,000 cabin crew, airline caterers, cleaners, baggage handlers, ramp workers, security officials, refuellers and drivers responded to the survey with almost 30% stating they have had to access their superannuation to get by. Almost half of respondents are worried they won’t be able to support their families throughout the crisis while 20% say they are worried they will lose their house.

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