Aviation

Jetstar slams union demands as “unsustainable” as it prepares for more strikes

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Jetstar has labelled wage claims from unions “unsustainable and “inconsistent”, as the airline cuts 10 per cent of its January flights to minimise disruptions.

“Due to the potential for ongoing action by the AFAP in particular, Jetstar is proactively adjusting its schedule for the rest of January by reducing domestic capacity by about 10 per cent,” the airline said in a statement.

“Doing this well in advance will significantly reduce disruption in what is the airline’s busiest month of the year, compared to the three to five working days notice the union is required to give of any industrial action.

“Customers already booked on these flights will be contacted in coming days to be offered alternatives, including full refunds.”

Jetstar also confirmed it is expecting the disruption and cancellations to cost the airline between $20 and $25 million.

Almost 100 Jetstar flights were cancelled over the weekend as pilots walked off the job and at least 30 were cancelled on Friday as ground crew and baggage handlers engaged in strikes across the country.

“Industrial action doesn’t change the fact the wage claims being made by the TWU and AFAP are unsustainable,” Gareth Evans, Jetstar’s CEO said.

“In the case of the pilots, the union is asking for what amounts to a 15 per cent wage increase in the first year in a group where captains earn more than $300,000 a year.

“For some groups, their salaries would increase by $60,000. We can’t agree to that.

“The TWU’s claims equate to a 12 per cent increase in costs for Jetstar ground crew who earn around $70,000 per year on a part-time basis and around $90,000 per year on a full-time basis. This is despite the same union agreeing to a three per cent wages deal in other parts of the Qantas Group.

“There’s no doubt that industrial action is expensive and frustrating, but we have to hold the line on costs or it threatens the long term sustainability of our business. We apologise to the customers whose plans have been caught up in what the unions are doing.”

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) has confirmed baggage handlers and ramp workers for the low-cost airline will take industrial action on Thursday 19 December because the airline continues to “refuse to negotiate on workers’ modest demands”.

The TWU is seeking more rest breaks, a guaranteed 12-hour break between shifts, guaranteed 30 hours of work a week and an annual wage increase of 4 per cent per year, despite the airline claiming the union is seeking a 12 per cent increase.

All branches of the TWU have written to Jetstar urging the company to expand investigations into safety at all airports after Safe Work NSW issued a notice over the risk to workers of “serious injury”.

“Again we apologise to the travelling public for the disruption and we want to emphasis that this is the only course that Jetstar has left workers to take. Jetstar workers are on forced part-time hours and poverty wage,” Michael Kaine, the TWU national secretary said.

“They struggle to support their families and regularly can’t pay their bills.”

“We are also appalled that Jetstar has failed to adequately address the serious concerns the NSW safety regulator has with the airline. Malfunctioning equipment and deliberate understaffing are putting workers at serious risk of injury and all the company can do is deny it.

“We are demanding that Jetstar comply with all workplace, health and safety requirements and review its operations across the country to assess the risk to workers.

“There is simply too much at stake here: when workers are at risk, so are passengers,”

The Thursday strikes are scheduled as follows:

Sydney: 10am-12pm; 5.30pm-6.30pm; and 6.30pm-7.30pm.

Melbourne: 9.30am-11.30am; 4pm-5pm; and 5pm-6pm

Brisbane: 6am-8am; 6pm-7pm; and 7pm-8pm.

Adelaide: 6am-8am; 6pm-7pm; and 7pm-8pm.

Cairns: 5.30am-7.30am; 1.30pm-2.30pm; and 2.30pm-3.30pm

Avalon: 8am-10am; 6.30pm-7.30pm, and 7.30pm-8.30pm.

Travel Weekly has reached out to the Australian Federation of Pilots (AFAP) for comment.

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