Airport employees across Australia have rallied against “unsafe and unfair” working conditions today, but have promised they do not aim to disrupt flights.
Baggage handlers, drivers, airline caterers, cleaners, cabin crew, security staff, refuellers, customer service and check-in staff called on airports to address what they deem to be low wages and the fact that many are kept for years on part-time work, some as few as 60 hours a month.
They also seek to draw attention to what they see as deliberate understaffing, claiming it causes injuries and poor working conditions.
The protests kicked off at 11am at Adelaide, Coolangatta and Perth airports, and were joined by Sydney airport at 12:15pm and Melbourne airport at 1pm.
A spokeswoman for the Transport Workers Union told AAP the protests were not intended to cause disruption and would not involve strikes or walking off the job.
“[Airport workers] are kept constantly desperate for more hours and struggle to support their families on low rates,” Michael Kaine, TWU’s national secretary said.
“Thousands of workers at Swissport/Aerocare have been ripped off their wages for seven years and have even been forced to sleep at airports between gruelling split shifts. Airports are profiting from this because they are allowing companies to win contracts on the basis of the lowest possible cost.
“They are failing to take into account efficiency, safety and fair working conditions. Airport workers are today saying enough is enough.”
The protests aim to support claims submitted by airport workers in recent months demanding “the same rate for doing the same job, secure work with regular hours, safety and security as the number one priority, rather than a focus on engaging work to be carried out for the lowest cost possible”.
“Airports make billions of dollars in profit and the Federal Government is refusing to hold them to account for the rip-off of airport workers. Both parties are on notice: we will escalate our actions leading up to 2020 in order to secure better jobs and safer working environment,” Kaine said.
The Fair Work Commission two weeks ago terminated the 2012 Swissport/Aerocare enterprise agreement under which employees were being paid below award rates.
The agreement also allowed the company to roster workers for as little as three hours and force them to work split shifts. This means that a worker could be on duty for 12 hours and only receive six hours’ pay.