There’s been a lot going on in airline industry in the first part of 2017.
Many ASU members across the industry are bargaining for better wages and conditions this year, and some are fighting hard to protect what union members have already won.
Whatever is going on in your workplace you can be confident that the ASU will keep fighting to hold employers to account. Unfortunately we are seeing some employers in the industry, particularly in the ground handling sector, seeking to undermine our collective strength by exploiting loopholes in our industrial laws.
What’s been going on? The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Dnata is a ground handling company owned by the Emirates Group. Dnata is one of the largest ground handlers in the country with operations in all Australia’s largest international terminals. The ASU has strong union membership at Dnata and the union has negotiated a number of collective agreements across the country for passenger handling, ramp and cargo staff.
It’s interesting to note that when Dnata first set up in 2007 they took advantage of John Howard’s unpopular Workchoices legislation and employed their staff on individual contracts known as AWA’s. They effectively undercut the rest of the ground handling operators overnight with this move. The Dnata workforce joined the ASU, got organised and fought for, and eventually won a collective agreement in Melbourne in 2010.
Since then the ASU has worked hard to try to ensure there is a level playing field when it comes to wages and conditions across the airlines and ground handlers.
Fast forward to 2017 and Dnata are looking for new ways to cut labour costs in the ground handling sector. Without any discussion with the workforce or the union, Dnata created a new company and tried to sneak a sub-standard EBA through the Fair Work Commission that would have seriously undermined existing EBAs, and wages and conditions of Dnata staff. Worse still the agreement was voted on by just 2 ’employees’ , even though the new company doesn’t technically have any work yet.
Our Members at Dnata are rightly outraged by their employers’ behaviour and are standing in strong opposition to this attempt to cut standards and undermine existing collective agreements.
The ASU will be challenging the dodgy EBA in the Fair Work Commission at a hearing on 15 May. We will throw everything at trying to stop the undermining of the existing Dnata workforce.
At the same time that Dnata has been trying to get around their current EBAs, those EBAs have come up for re-negotiation. ASU members at Dnata will be determined to win a just outcome in these negotiations.
Dnata’s behaviour is yet another example of companies trying to game the system to get around employment laws. It shows that our current laws are not strong enough to prevent corporate restructuring resulting in a race to the bottom on wages, conditions and safety. If Dnata gets away with this who will try next?
Whatever the outcome at the Fair Work Commission we will all keep up the fight to defend jobs and defend wage standards in the industry.
You might have seen some of the media attention that Aerocare has been receiving lately? The 7.30 report has run two stories about the working conditions at Aerocare focusing on rostering, split shifts and fatigue.
The ASU has long campaigned against split shifts in the industry as we believe that it poses a health and safety risk when workers are required to work across an extreme spread of hours to cover split shifts.
The ASU & the TWU are challenging a number of provisions of the recently finalised Aerocare EBA, including split shifts, as we believe that there are a number of areas that the proposed EBA for Aerocare ground staff falls below the Award minimum.
We believe that Aerocare workers deserve to be treated fairly and receive the same industry standards as others in the industry and as such we will work hard to improve the conditions at Aerocare.
The other major player in ground handling sector is Menzies. Menzies has recently commenced bargaining with the ASU. It’s early days in the bargaining but already there are signs that all the ground handlers are watching events at Dnata closely.
What are the airlines doing?
Those airlines that directly employ their staff to undertake ground handling are few and far between. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to campaign hard to secure a level playing field across the industry.
At Qantas we have a commitment that the airline won’t use any other Qantas owned company to undertake the work of Qantas staff. That’s a really important commitment because in many ways Qantas were the original architect of contracting out work and creating new low cost subsidiaries such as Qantas Ground Services (QGS).
At Jetstar we have a similar commitment that no other company in the group can perform our Jetstar members’ work. ASU bargaining at Jetstar is due to commence so these issues will be on the table again and the ASU negotiating team will work hard to protect jobs and conditions at Jetstar.
Virgin are also in the midst of enterprise bargaining and issues around job security and direct employment are front and centre in the negotiations.
So as you can see 2017 is already shaping up as a huge year across the airline industry. I am confident that through our strong union membership and collective efforts we can win these challenges. But we need your support and involvement to do this.
Every ASU member in the airline industry has a reason to oppose what Dnata are trying to get away with. I ask every ASU member to continue to stand strongly together for secure employment and a fair level playing field across the airline industry. Please look out for ASU updates and actions, and come along and show your support to our Dnata members in the coming weeks as they fight to secure their EBA wages and conditions.