Technical staff at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority file for protected industrial action over safety concerns

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Edited by Travel Weekly

    Technical staff at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) have filed for protected industrial action in the Fair Work Commission following CASA’s failure to respond to employees’ concerns about staffing levels and training, impacting aviation surveillance activities and safety.

    CASA technical staff, including Aviation Safety Regulators, Flight Training Examiners, Flying Operations Inspectors and a range of other specialists, are vital to the safe operation of the aviation industry. These specialists undertake surveillance activities to ensure aircraft operators comply with Australian and international aviation safety regulations.

    A 2022 Australian National Audit Office report revealed a 31 per cent decline in CASA’s surveillance activities between 2017/18 and 2020/21. The report also highlighted a mismatch between staffing levels in CASA and anticipated levels of surveillance.

    Professionals Australia ACT Director Kathleen Studdert said these issues had been of major concern to technical staff at CASA and had previously been raised with management.

    “Technical staff are vital to the safe operation of Australia’s aviation sector.

    “Unfortunately, understaffing, patchy access to technical training and a classification structure incapable of effectively competing with the private sector means CASA doesn’t have the technical specialists it needs to carry out the necessary surveillance of aviation operators to keep air travel safe.

    “That’s why we have called for a separate industrial agreement for CASA’s technical workforce.

    “The new agreement would include the power to review and establish safe parameters for the numbers of aviation safety inspectors at CASA, allow staff to have input into how surveillance is conducted, and provide access to better quality, ongoing training.

    “To address staffing issues, a classification and pay structure is required that reflects market rates and includes better provisions for consultation and disputes.

    “Importantly, our members want CASA to display genuine respect for the members and their union in the workplace.

    “The current enterprise bargaining agreement expired over two years ago, and after eight weeks of bargaining, CASA has refused to make a genuine offer or counter offers to our claims.

    “As a result, we’ve filed with the Fair Work Commission to take protected industrial action.”

    A conference was held at the Fair Work Commission on 6 September 2023 to facilitate further discussion between the parties, but didn’t deliver meaningful progress.

    The CASA technical staff ballot on taking protected industrial action is currently open and will close on 11 September.

    Ms Studdert said the Union had also written to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is undertaking an audit of CASA in mid-September.

    “CASA technical staff care deeply about aviation safety and our international reputation. They want to ensure CASA has the technical capabilities to ensure a culture of proactive safety.

    “Given our members are on the frontline of maintaining the safety of Australia’s air operations, we want to engage with ICAO to discuss our concerns about the aviation safety regime overseen by CASA.

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