Australian airports and airlines have been accused of profiting from the “wage theft” of thousands of airport workers after ground-handler Aerocare/Swissport was found to be shortchanging workers for seven years.
Terminating a 2012 enterprise deal, the Fair Work Commission said “the terms and conditions provided for by the agreement are less beneficial than those provided for in the award, for a substantial proportion of Aerocare’s employees”.
Representing employees, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) said the agreement had forced 3,000 baggage handlers, check-in staff and other workers “onto poverty conditions, with some forced to sleep at work between gruelling split shifts”.
It added that the deal had seen workers given “just 60 hours guaranteed a month, three hour shifts and below award rates on weekends and public holidays” as well as “split shifts where they can be at work for 15 hours and more a day, but get paid for just six hours”.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine called the agreement “wage theft on a grand scale which has been happening for seven years”.
“The airports and airlines have known about it but have allowed it to continue because they were profiting from it,” he said.
“The Federal Government stood by and publicly supported the company, ignoring the testimony of workers who said their conditions were degrading and that they were impacting on safety and security. “We demand that airports and airlines take responsibility for these conditions and stop the race to the bottom in aviation.”
Along with wage and shift shortcomings, TWU flagged high injury rates among staff (134 incidents), instances of injured workers being forced back to work, security incidents and faulty equipment in use around aircraft and passengers.
The TWU has threatened widespread industrial action at airports over the next year as 200 enterprise agreements covering 38,000 transport workers expire, serving claims on all major airports in recent weeks.
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