Tens of thousands of holiday plans are set to be disrupted by strikes over the summer period as Jetstar workers prepare to walk off the job.
The Australian Federation of Pilots (AFAP) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) confirmed on Friday that pilots and ground crew members had voted in favour of partaking in protected industrial action including a work stoppage of up to 24 hours.
AFAP said in a statement it would begin with four-hour work stoppages next Saturday and Sunday as they continue to negotiate with the airline over wages and conditions. However, the union said no action would be taken from Christmas to the New Year as previously speculated.
“It is deeply disappointing that the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) is threatening to disrupt the holiday plans of tens of thousands of Australians at the busiest travel time of the year,” said Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans.
“The union’s demands would put significant pressure on the low fares our customers rely on and force us to review our investment in new aircraft, new technology and new destinations,” he said.
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”.
“Jetstar pilots are paid significantly less than their counterparts at Tigerair, Virgin [Australia] and Qantas,” he said.
“And they are tired of not being valued as highly as their peers at other airlines.”
Evans said Jetstar captains earn an average of over $300,000 a year including super and allowances plus a three per cent annual increase.
“This is 40 per cent above Australia’s annual wage growth and consistent with our position across the Qantas and Jetstar Groups,” he said.
“We remain committed to reaching a new agreement to support the great work our pilots do every day, but not any cost.
“Strong arm tactics from the AFAP will not change our position on this.”
On top of the pilot strikes, 94 per cent of Jetstar’s ground crew have voted for strike action after the company rejected “basic demands”.
The TWU said Jetstar’s baggage handlers and ground crew will engage in strikes in the coming weeks and months after the airline rejected demands for 30 hours guaranteed work per week and increases to current wages.
The vote comes amid concerns over security and safety at the airline and a warning from the TWU that the Federal Government’s announcement on extra police at airports won’t address security problems.
“Jetstar forces its workers on to part-time hours, some are guaranteed no more than 20 hours a week. The rates are low and families are struggling,” TWU’s national secretary Michael Kaine said.
“Jetstar workers took a pay freeze in recent years and they expected the company treat them fairly now they are earning bumper profits. Disappointingly Jetstar have rejected the vast majority of the workers’ demands outright.
“Security at our airports is under threat because of bad working conditions, chronic fatigue and deliberate understaffing.”
Evans is calling on unions to come to the table with a “reasonable” offer that is fair to pilots and ensures the future of low fares travel for Australians.
“Do not put the holiday plans of tens of thousands of Australians in doubt,” he said.
“We will do everything we can to protect the travel plans of our customers and minimise the disruption to their journeys.”