Qantas valet staff pressured to accept AWAs

February 22, 2008

One-hundred-and-seventy Qantas valet parking staff nationally are affected by a company's last-ditch effort to move workers onto five-year fixed-term Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts) before changes to industrial relations legislation abolishing AWAs come into effect.

Equity Valet Parking is taking over the contract from Hertz Australia on March 1, and will be operating at Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney airports. Under Hertz Australia, which held the contract since 1989, valet parking staff were covered by a collective agreement, which was underpinned by a federal award. Equity Valet Parking is not required to hire existing staff because there was no transmission of business.

Australian Services Union (ASU) Victorian branch secretary Ingrid Stitt told Green Left Weekly that Equity Valet Parking was giving workers the "choice" to accept either redundancy or the AWA.

"The company has been pressuring workers into signing the AWA and have even gone so far as to advertise the jobs already on a website. The AWA on offer is totally deficient on overtime and penalty payments and hours of work, leaving workers much worse off than under the previous collective agreement", Stitt said.

The ASU estimates that under the new agreement valet staff, many of whom do shift work, would be on average about $150 a week worse off — even allowing for the 4% pay rise included in the AWA.

According to the February 16 Age, Qantas claims it could not interfere in the contract arrangements between the parties. "We told Qantas that they should not let this happen in their own backyard. Most Qantas valet parking staff [have] worked for them for over 10 years and have been the public face of the airline, but unfortunately Qantas has had a real hands-off approach on this issue", Stitt commented.

The federal workplace ombudsman launched an investigation into Equity Valet Parking's AWA offer and will determine whether the company was complying with workplace law. The union welcomed the investigation but was concerned that time was running out for the workers.

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