The TWU is concerned that an enterprise agreement approved by the Fair Work Commission today for workers forced to sleep at airports will continue to significantly underpay them.
The judgement follows a ruling by the Commission in December in which it set down multiple changes to the agreement by aviation ground handling company Swissport, which is contracted by all major airlines to carry out work.
The Union is examining these changes and analysing continued potential underpayments for the thousands of Swissport baggage handlers, ramp workers airline cleaners and check-in staff.
“Swissport has for three years put forward substandard agreements to rip its workers off. With pressure from the TWU it has now been forced to pay workers overtime during call-back split shifts and it has been forced to increase rates in some cases. But these concessions are the bare minimum and we are not satisfied that overall the agreement meets minimum standards. We are therefore looking to potentially appeal this decision,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“The fact that Swissport has such poor standards should come as a real concern to everyone. This is the same ground handling agent which serviced the Tigerair flight this week which carried a passenger now confirmed to have the coronavirus. We have written to the company to ask what processes it has in place to keep its staff and their families safe. Swissport doesn’t just rip its workers off it also has appalling standards on worker health and safety which are now potentially risking public health,” Kaine said.
“It is vital that standards are lifted in aviation since the low wages, part-time hours and horrendous safety conditions at the likes of Swissport are forcing workers into poverty, compromising safety and security at the airports and fueling wider problems for the economy with low wage growth and under-employment. Airports and airlines must take responsibility to ensure against exploitation of workers in their supply chains. The Federal Government must start holding airports and airlines to account and deliver good, safe airport jobs,” he added.
Swissport has been exposed over workers forced to sleep at airports because of low rates and split shifts. In December the Fair Work Commission said the 2018 enterprise agreement failed to meet the “better off overall” test and set multiple undertakings. In 2017 the Commission rejected the previous enterprise agreement because of low rates and split shifts. Last year the Commission terminated the current enterprise agreement because of low rates and split shifts. The Federal Court rejected Swissport’s bid last year to get approval for its grueling split shifts regime which sees workers forced to stay at work for up to 15 hours while paid just six hours work, leading to chronic fatigue.
There are also serious concerns about safety and security at Swissport. Incidents include:
- At Sydney International Airport there were 134 injury incidents among a Swissport staff of 326. Security incidents, including passengers at Perth airport allowed airside to collect their baggage after a baggage handler was left alone to unload an entire aircraft;
- Staff being forced back to work while still injured;
- Managers accompanying injured staff into doctors’ surgeries during appointments;
- Broken and faulty equipment in use around aircraft and passengers
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 claim is part of the plan for widespread industrial action this year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire. The aim of the industrial action and the claim is to ensure accountability among powerful, wealthy companies at the top of the transport supply chain, including airports.
Qantas made profits of $1.3 billion profits last year and the four main airports made profits of $2.2 billion.