Unions and workers slam killing of Jobkeeper

Thousands of aviation jobs are at risk following an announcement by the Federal Government to kill wage subsidies to support the ailing industry.

Aviation unions are writing to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison appealing for him to reverse the decision and introduce Aviation Keeper, for all aviation workers with strict conditions capping executive salaries, banning bonuses and dividends and banning outsourcing.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Jobkeeper had been a vital lifeline in helping workers pay their bills and support their families and this is now gone.

“The Federal Government is ripping away a vital support to the aviation industry at a critical moment. Domestic aviation is poised to make a come back but it is not there yet. The Australian taxpayer has effectively paid the wages of thousands of aviation workers for almost a year. Stopping that support at the final hurdle makes no sense and amounts to a scandalous waste of hundreds of millions of dollars spent to date,” he said.

ASU Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske said Aviation Keeper, a targeted wage subsidy with built-in timescales and strict conditions, should be the focus of support to save jobs and businesses.

“Without the connection to jobs, or putting money in the pockets of workers who need it, this is just corporate welfare. This is taxpayer money designed to flow into the pockets of businesses, not workers, with no strings attached,” Gaske said.

The Association for Virgin Australia Group Pilots President John Lyons said: “This announcement is focused entirely on companies – not workers or passengers. The taxpayer is being expected to bail out the aviation industry without an equity stake or return to the community in the form of protections for workers or passengers,” he added.

FAAA Secretary Teri O’Toole said: “Workers have spent a year worrying about their jobs and their futures but they have remained hopeful that their jobs would be there when aviation returned. It is heartbreaking that the Government has decided to abandon the wage subsidy now,” she said.

ALAEA Federal Secretary Steve Purvinas said: “There is no doubt that the aviation industry will suffer from this decision. Skills built up over decades will be lost and the industry will struggle to return when the economy needs it to,” he said.

A YouGov poll last year found a majority of people – 62% – wanted the Government to take a stake in private companies which require bailouts, with 50% stating Qantas should be nationalised and only 20% opposed.

A survey of over 900 aviation workers last week showed that the jobs of almost 90% of continue to be affected by the pandemic with only 11% back to working in their jobs with normal hours.

One in five workers remain stood down from their jobs and 33% are working reduced hours.

The survey shows valuable skills have already been lost from the industry. Of the one in five workers who have left aviation or been made redundant, over 35% had over 20 years’ experience and 25% had between 10 and 20 years’ experience.

Qantas is outsourcing all of its baggage handlers, ramp workers and cabin cleaners and is replacing them with workers on lower wages and conditions. Aviation unions are taking Qantas to the High Court over both Qantas’s refusal to pay sick leave and Jobkeeper misuse.

Qantas revealed in its latest annual report it is paying its senior executives millions of dollars. When Qantas announced its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.

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