Unions slam Qantas and government over stand downs, subsidy

August 10, 2021
Photo: Transport Workers Union

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has slammed the federal government and Qantas amid confusion over aviation workers missing out on a wage subsidy.

Qantas announced on August 3 that 2500 Qantas and Jetstar workers would be stood down hours after the federal government announced its wage subsidy.

The company said cabin crew and pilots and only 50% of workers who were stood down would be eligible.

But, on August 5, another Qantas spokesperson said all 2500 workers who were stood down on August 3, including airport workers, would be eligible for the relief payment.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine accused Qantas and the government of “playing Russian roulette” with workers.

He also criticised the “sweet deals” being cut involving public money that are “aimed at cutting Qantas’ competitors out”.

“There is utter confusion over who will receive the wage subsidy. Qantas says it won’t pay workers [it has] stood down, but the federal government says it will only pay supports to cabin crew and pilots — and even then only half of them," Kaine said.

The TWU is calling for a federal wage subsidy to be extended to all aviation workers, including ground crew, cleaners and ramp workers at ground handling companies who it says must be kept connected to their jobs.

“If you’re a worker at a ground handler in Perth, Darwin or Adelaide and have been stood down because flights have been grounded in Sydney you are being told to fend for yourself. There’s nothing here for you. But if you work for Qantas you’ll get a wage subsidy,” said Kaine.

The TWU also wants aviation companies to commit to retaining workers and capping executive wages.

Australian Service Union assistant national secretary Emeline Gaske criticised the stand-downs of Qantas and Jetstar workers.

“These workers have had 18 months of hell — with many exhausting their savings, being forced to sell their homes and tap into essential superannuation funds,” she said.

“Aviation workers are hanging by a thread, whether they work for a domestic airline, a foreign airline or in an airport support role.”

Qantas has received at least $2 billion in wage subsidies, financial support and fee waivers. Its international crew had been receiving a wage subsidy, despite JobKeeper ending.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michele O’Neil said airport workers and their families are “financially exhausted by last year’s lockdowns and are [being] ruthlessly excluded from income support by the Morrison government, once again.”

The ACTU said all aviation workers affected by the Qantas and Jetstar stand-downs must receive COVID-19 support payments.

“Nobody should be left behind. The Morrison government must immediately establish JobKeeper 2.0 for all workers affected by lockdowns — including in the aviation sector,” O’Neil said.

[Sign the TWU's letter to Qantas to reinstate the workers.]

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