Virgin and Rex follow Qantas in standing down staff

Sydney, Australia - May 5, 2014: Virgin Australia Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft at Sydney Airport with a REX Saab 340 landing behind.

Virgin Australia and Regional Express (Rex) have both stood down staff in response to the current lockdowns and knock-on border closures across Australia.

Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka announced “reduced hours and/or temporary stand-downs for frontline staff at all bases” in an email to all employees last week, according to The Australian Financial Review.

Hrdlicka said there was “no headline number or hard and fast period for our staff impacted by temporary stand-downs”, but she’s expecting lockdowns won’t be over until the end of October, with the airline flying only a quarter of its planned schedule for this month.

“The number of people we will require to work will vary from week to week,” she said.

“We will do our best to manage the flexibility you have provided by considering your preferences where operationally possible. Our priority is getting our team, and our fleet, back in the air whenever and wherever we can.”

The AFR reported that Virgin’s new working arrangements include a minimum fortnightly payment for anyone affected, linked to available government support packages.

Travel Weekly has contacted Virgin for comment.

Rex also announced temporary adjustments to its employment numbers on Saturday. The move affects about 500 of the airline’s frontline workers including pilots, cabin crew, engineers, airport workers, call centre employees, ground crew and head office operational staff.

This follows Rex’s decision to continue its temporary schedule reductions until 12 September 2021. The airline has agreed for its flight attendants to share the remaining available work.

“This arrangement for our flight attendants is a great example of a pragmatic and unified approach as we grapple with the devastating consequences of lockdowns and border closures which have ravaged the entire aviation industry,” said John Sharp, deputy chairman at Rex.

Sharp said all eligible full-time staff who are stood down would receive income support from the federal government of $750 a week gross under the Retaining Domestic Airline Capability Assistance fund if they are not eligible for the government’s COVID-19 Disaster Payment.

“These staffing adjustments will take effect from Monday 16 August 2021 and remain until 12 September 2021 in the first instance,” he said.

“We will monitor the situation closely and react as necessary.”

The impact of lockdowns and border closures has also forced Rex to revise its profit guidance for FY21 from a $15 million profit-before-tax loss to a statutory loss of $18 million.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is urging the government to extend a wage subsidy to all stood-down aviation workers, claiming that those in NSW already receiving single parent allowances through Centrelink are being told they cannot receive the full disaster payment.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the government must act now to save thousands of jobs in aviation.

“The federal government is making an absolute mess of its support for aviation workers,” he said.

“By failing to bring in a wage subsidy for all stood-down aviation workers, it is threatening jobs, businesses and livelihoods.

“Airline workers in NSW are being penalised if they are already in receipt of government support. Workers at ground handlers in many states are ineligible for any government payment despite aviation work being significantly disrupted.

“This is a major blow for workers in an industry which has been to hell and back. They have drained their savings, eaten up their super, lost houses and have mounting bills.

“Now, the federal government is abandoning them because it refuses to bring in wage supports for all affected workers.”

Earlier this month, the Qantas Group announced it would stand down approximately 2,500 frontline staff in response to the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks.

Featured image source: iStock/Ryan Fletcher

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