Unionised airline workers to strike over safety concerns

Rear view of a male pilot adjusting switches on the control panel while sitting inside cockpit. Man operating the switches while flying a modern airplane jet.
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Members of three unions will simultaneously participate in a half-day work stoppage on 10 October because of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) failing to adequately address safety concerns during enterprise bargaining negotiations, according to the unions.

    Members of Professionals Australia (PA), the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA) have agreed to take a half day stoppage on Tuesday 10 October, as part of protected industrial action, in an effort to have their safety concerns addressed by the aviation regulator.

    The stoppage involves Aviation Safety Regulators, Flight Training Examiners, Flying Operations Inspectors, Pilots, Engineers and other specialists who are vital to the safe operation of the aviation industry. These technical specialists undertake a range of surveillance and audit activities to ensure aircraft operators comply with Australian and international aviation safety regulations.

    Professionals Australia CEO Jill McCabe said 95 per cent of PA members supported escalating their industrial action after CASA failed to satisfactorily respond to their concerns about excessive working hours, chronic understaffing and the overall impact of this on aviation safety regulation.

    She also pointed to the findings of a recent survey of PA’s members which showed that inadequate staffing levels were resulting in excessive working hours, which in turn affected the health and safety of staff and the safety of the aviation industry.

    “Chronic understaffing has left CASA’s technical workforce overworked and under enormous pressure to cover a huge backlog of work that needs to be completed to keep Australia’s aviation industry safe,” McCabe said.

    “Twenty five per cent of our members reported working between 6 to 10 extra hours per fortnight and a further 15 per cent are working more than ten additional hours each fortnight.

    “In addition, 65 per cent of our members indicated that working extra hours impacted the quality of inspections, the effectiveness of safety regulations, the workplace culture and their health and safety.

    “There is also a huge backlog of aviation safety regulatory tasks such as assessments of maintenance tasks, air operations tasks and new air operating certificates that need to be completed.

    “In some cases, unless a job is urgent, waiting times for the completion of these important aviation safety jobs have blown out to six to twelve weeks, and unless CASA employs additional technical staff, there’s simply no end in sight.

    Simon Lutton, Executive Director AFAP said that fatigue caused by excessive overtime due to understaffing was a major concern for their members.

    “While a key objective of CASA is to ensure that proper fatigue management protocols are enforced within Australia’s aviation sector, CASA’s role in providing a work environment conducive to managing the fatigue of its own pilot employees is extremely poor.

    “Our members are routinely working excessive overtime to keep up with demand, and as a result, the quality of their work, their health and safety and the safety of the travelling public is being put at risk.

    ALAEA’s Federal Secretary Steve Purvinas said that their members’ work was often highly technical and that workplace conditions increased the risk of mistakes and errors.

    “The work that aircraft engineers undertake for CASA is often highly complex and takes significant time. This type of work cannot be rushed, and the consequences of cutting corners can be catastrophic.

    “CASA aircraft engineers need the staff and time to do their jobs properly.”

    At a minimum the three unions are advocating an additional 36 technical staff are required in the immediate term as well as a comprehensive review of technical staffing levels in the medium and long term in consultation with them and their members.

    PA also advised they were writing to Catherine King the Federal Minister for Transport about the impact of understaffing on CASA’s ability to effectively regulate safety in the aviation industry and the urgent need to lift any public sector staffing caps that apply to CASA.

    “The reality is that CASA needs additional staff to keep Australia’s aviation sector safe.”

    (Featured Image: Rear view of a male pilot – iStock/Portra)

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