Virgin Australia ground crew clear runway for industrial action
Virgin Airline ground crew have applied to the workplace umpire for protected industrial action. Photo: AAP
Virgin Australia ground crew will take a first step towards a possible strike as negotiations with the airline stagnate over pay, safety and job security.
Cost-of-living pressures, low wages and unsustainable hours are weighing on Virgin employees with some forced to work second jobs to pay their mortgage or rent, the Transport Workers Union claims.
The TWU said Virgin’s $129 million profit flies in the face of its workers, who are still subject to wage freezes and working conditions initially designed to be temporary COVID-19 measures.
In a meeting with union representatives last Thursday, Virgin tabled an updated deal last Thursday that included at least a three per cent pay rise in the first year of the new agreement.
It also featured three per cent rises in the second and third years of the deal on top of recent award raises.
But Virgin ground crew on Monday applied for a protected action ballot that would give workers the right to take industrial action, if approved by the Fair Work Commission.
TWU national assistant secretary Nick McIntosh said workers had reached breaking point.
“Virgin must correct poverty pay, insecure work and unsafe conditions, otherwise workers will have to walk away from jobs that have become unsustainable,” he said.
“Australians have watched in horror as standards have plummeted in aviation following Qantas’ illegal outsourcing of ground workers.
“If this is how Bain Capital intends to run the airline, passengers should brace for disruption as turnover increases and workers are pushed to pursue protected industrial action to achieve safe and sustainable conditions.”
A Virgin Australia spokesperson acknowledged their employees’ move in a statement on Monday night.
“We are in the process of negotiating a new enterprise agreement for our ‘pit crew’ employees,” they said.
“We continue to negotiate in good faith with our people and the Transport Workers Union.”
The union members are seeking a correction to award-minimum pay, more full-time jobs and increased hours for part-time workers, better rostering and minimum crewing numbers, extreme weather provisions and recognition for acting in higher duties.
Pilots are also frustrated with Virgin, according to the TWU, which claims many are refusing to return to the airline after the COVID-19 pandemic because their jobs have become unsustainable.