‘Wage-theft on a grand scale’ of airport workers, as Aerocare agreement terminated

The Transport Workers’ Union has accused airports and airlines of profiting from the wage theft of thousands of airport workers as ground-handler Aerocare/Swissport has been found to have ripped them off for seven years.

The Fair Work Commission today terminated the 2012 enterprise agreement saying: “the terms and conditions provided for by the agreement are less beneficial than those provided for in the award, for a substantial proportion of Aerocare’s employees”.

The agreement has forced 3,000 baggage handlers, airport drivers, ramp workers, caterers, cleaners and check-in staff onto poverty conditions, with some forced to sleep at work between gruelling split shifts.

The 2012 agreement gives workers just 60 hours guaranteed a month, three hour shifts and below award rates on weekends and public holidays. It allows the company to force workers onto split shifts where they can be at work for 15 hours and more a day, but get paid for just six hours.

“This is wage theft on a grand scale which has been happening for seven years. The airports and airlines have known about it but have allowed it to continue because they were profiting from it. The Federal Government stood by and publicly supported the company, ignoring the testimony of workers who said their conditions were degrading and that they were impacting on safety and security. We demand that airports and airlines take responsibility for these conditions and stop the race to the bottom in aviation. We demand that the Federal Government supports workers when they raise concerns about working conditions,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.

“Aerocare/Swissport has been exposed over workers forced to sleep at the airports because of the disgraceful conditions. Instead of doing something about it the airports cleaned up the bedding area and the airlines which contracted the company turned a blind eye. Airport workers are standing together and saying enough is enough, they want decent jobs that don’t force them to struggle,” he added.

Aerocare/Swissport has also been exposed over:

  • High injury rates among staff. At Sydney International Airport there were 134 injury incidents among a 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

The TWU has served claims on all major airports in recent weeks demanding the same rate for doing the same job; secure work with regular hours; safety and security as a 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 announced by the TWU for widespread industrial action next 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.

Australia’s four major airports, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, made over $2.2 billion in profit last year. Aerocare was bought in 2017 by Swissport, which in turn is owned by Chinese conglomerate HNA. Swissport last week reported global revenues of $2.5 billion sinfe the start of the year.

For video and pictures of breaches at Aerocare/Swissport: https://www.twu.com.au/companies/aerocare/aerocare-workplace-conditions-and-safety-breaches/

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