The TWU is appealing the approval of a new enterprise agreement at aviation ground-handling company Swissport, which the Fair Work Commission ruled last year was underpaying its workers who are forced to sleep at the airports.
The agreement which guarantees workers just 60 hours a month will continue to see workers impoverished and ripped off, said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“This agreement is an utter shambles. Swissport filed it with the intention of locking workers into another four years of rip-off rates and grueling conditions. When the Commission failed to approve it in December, Swissport then set about trying to do a patch-up job to get it over the line. We don’t believe this patch-up job is good enough and we don’t think the process has been fair to workers. As a result we are appealing this agreement,” said Kaine.
“For years this company has been putting shoddy deals up for approval, which all aim at stealing from its workers, forcing them to scrap for more hours and struggle to pay bills. We have managed to force Swissport to make concessions but this agreement is still a long way off what thousands of its workers deserve,” he added.
“Standards in aviation need to be lifted and this agreement will just drag them down further. Low wages, underemployment and grueling rostering are pushing airport workers into poverty and compromising safety and security. 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.
Jetstar contracts work to Swissport in Perth and has been engaging more exploited Swissport workers at other airports instead of its own Jetstar staff since workers voted for industrial action in December.
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 a plan to ensure accountability among powerful, wealthy companies at the top of the transport supply chain, including airports, and make sure they pay their fair share. It will involve widespread industrial action this year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire.
Qantas announced today it had made half year profits of $771 million. The four main airports made profits of $2.2 billion.