Aviation

At least 30 flights cancelled as Jetstar workers walk off the job

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Jetstar passengers around the country are expected to face disruptions as ground crew and baggage handlers walk off the job today.

About 250 Jetstar workers are engaging in strikes today across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns and Avalon for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said the workers are striking to protest conditions that put them at risk of “serious injury”.

According to the union, the workplace safety regulator issued a notice to Jetstar at Sydney airport just hours ahead of the strikes warning of understaffing and crews being allocated to work on two aircraft at a time.

The notice highlights “inadequate safety procedures” around operational aircraft leaving workers at risk of being “crushed, ingested, or other”.

“Safe Work NSW is lifting the lid on what workers have been enduring at Jetstar,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

“The airline has cut its staffing levels right back to the bone meaning workers are constantly under pressure. Jetstar also allows broken equipment and machines to be kept in use despite the risk to workers and passengers.

“This is causing injury rates to go through the roof. In just a few months workers have reported a broken hand, detached bicep, concussion and shoulder, back and neck injuries that have required surgery. These workers are chronically fatigued and stressed out because of working conditions.”

Jetstar workers are taking strike action following a rejection of all their claims by Jetstar, including claims related to safety such as more rest breaks, 12-hour breaks between shifts and a commitment to engaging Jetstar employees rather than untrained casual staff. Jetstar workers earn the lowest rates in the Qantas group and are seeking a 4 per cent pay rise, following the 18-month pay freeze, and guaranteed 30 hours work a week.

“We have payslips showing Jetstar workers on as little as 20 hours a week earning barely over $470. These are poverty wages. Jetstar workers aren’t looking for the $3 million the Jetstar CEO earns and they are not looking for the $24 million the Qantas CEO earns. They simply want fair and safe jobs,” Kaine said.

The strikes run as follows:

  • Sydney: 5.30am to 7.30am and 5.30pm to 7.30pm
  • Melbourne: 9.30am to 11.30am and 4pm to 6pm
  • Avalon: 8.30am to 10.30am and 6.30pm to 8.30pm
  • Brisbane: 6am to 8am and 6pm to 8pm
  • Cairns: 5.30am to 7.30am and 1.30pm to 3.30pm
  • Adelaide: 6am to 8am and 6pm to 8pm

More disruptions are expected to take place over the weekend as Jetstar pilots also plan to walk off the job.

90 flights have been cancelled across Saturday and Sunday, with thousands of passengers expected to be affected.

The airline’s CEO Gareth Evans told a press conference on Wednesday that 44 flights would be cancelled on Saturday and 46 on Sunday with other passengers accommodated by consolidating affected flights, moving services onto larger aircraft or rescheduling flights and putting passengers on Qantas flights.

According to Jetstar, the Australian Federation of Pilots (AFAP) is seeking the equivalent of a 15 per cent pay increase for Jetstar pilots which the union’s executive director said in November made them the “lowest-paid jet airline pilots”.

However, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported the union is only asking for a 3 per cent pay rise and the 15 per cent figure is based on an exaggeration of non-salary claims.

Union pilots who operate the airline’s narrow-body aircraft will stop work from 5am to 9am on the 14th and 15th of December. International pilots who operate the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners will not operate from their home base between 2:30pm and 6:30pm on Saturday and 9:30 and 1:30pm on Sunday.

About 80 per cent of Jetstar’s pilots are members of the union.

For a full list of cancellations, go here.

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