Virgin must now Act on promises to workers: TWU

The Transport Workers’ Union Queensland branch has welcomed Virgin’s plans to fast-track an increase to flights and said it will hold the airline to its commitments to maximise jobs for experienced Virgin workers and prioritise its current workforce.

The TWU Queensland branch said Virgin’s prediction that business will return to 80 per cent of pre-covid capacity by June is a positive sign for workers and the aviation industry which is critical for Queensland’s economy and remains somewhat in flux.

TWU members worked hard to ensure the Virgin sale would result in a full capacity airline including retaining regional arm VARA. Workers also secured commitments from new owners Bain Capital to maximise jobs and keep international and regional workers connected to the business. The TWU will now work closely with Virgin to ensure those workers are redeployed and prioritised throughout any recruitment drive.

TWU Queensland Branch Assistant Secretary Adam Carter said if done right, this move to ramp up flying could close the lid on a traumatic year of administration, stand downs and redundancies for loyal Virgin workers.

“Aviation workers are incredibly passionate and loyal. They have stood by Virgin through the toughest times and worked hard to ensure the business came back as a strong competitor in the critical aviation market which is a lifeline for much of Queensland’s economy. As we move towards a welcome return to the skies, workers must be prioritised and rewarded for their dedication first and foremost.

“A ramp up of flying must be met with improvements to hours and conditions for the existing workforce. If the industry is on the up and up, then so must be job security, decent conditions and remuneration. The TWU looks forward to continuing a co-operative relationship with Virgin as flying picks up,” he said.

Carter added that the Federal Government was irresponsible to push JobKeeper off a cliff while aviation was poised, but not yet ready to make a full recovery.

“Just yesterday we received further scepticism over international borders opening from Government Ministers. We have every reason to believe we will continue to see snap domestic border closures. Aviation workers are craving certainty after the most tumultuous year of their lives and the Federal Government must give it to them by initiating a national plan for aviation that will ensure workers do not bear the brunt of capacity dips in an industry known to have peaks and troughs,” he said.

Next week marks 12 months since Virgin entered into voluntary administration.

TWU members recently pushed Virgin to resolve a dispute after it sent stand-down notices to Virgin ground crew, which the airline has now resolved by committing to pay minimum hours to workers.

The TWU’s Federal Court case against Qantas over the outsourcing of 2,500 jobs began this week. The TWU says the axing of a united workforce that stood up for its rights during a pandemic was not only cruel but illegal under the Fair Work Act.

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