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Virgin Australia shows Qantas how to handle staff wage talks

The Transport Workers Union has praised Virgin’s staff negotiations, describing it as “stark contrast” to Qantas’ illegal behaviour.

Virgin Australia has secured a new wage deal with its ground workers around Australia.

Virgin Australia has avoided a potentially costly and disruptive strike by ground workers by agreeing a new three-year wage deal which restores pay rates and conditions sacrificed during its pandemic collapse and relaunch under Bain Capital.

The airline met a five point request by workers that called for greater respect and protection for staff as well as efforts to address workplace stress, fatigue and job security before it proceeds with its Initial Public Offering, which is expected next year.

Workers were also calling for investment in workplace technology and an annual employee share scheme in the proposed IPO to reward loyalty.

Virgin’s support in campaigning for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission, which would introduce new government regulations across the aviation sector, was also part of the agreement.

Finally, Virgin agreed to introduce an extreme wet weather policy among measures to improve worker safety, along with a commitment to always roster team members to a safe standard.

Virgin agreed to re-establish its job classification structure which fell apart during the pandemic and played a role in the airline’s collapse when pay rates were pushed up to minimum award rates.

This means the longest tenured staff will receive the highest pay boosts of between 8-20 percent in the first year followed by a set 6.5 percent for the last two years.

The new agreement will also lead to the creation of more full-time positions, more hours for part-time workers and a commitment to source more ground handling jobs from within the company’s existing ranks.

Transport Workers Union Secretary Michael Kaine praised Virgin management for recognising that a happy workforce leads to a productive, efficient and profitable business.

“This is the premium enterprise agreement Virgin workers knew they needed to achieve from Bain Capital to correct pay and conditions and make jobs more secure after administration and pandemic sacrifices had left them struggling to make ends meet,” Kaine said.

“Workers are the backbone of an airline. Virgin’s commitment to insource more jobs is a stark contrast to the brutal, illegal outsourcing approach of its rival, Qantas.

“Good, secure jobs are the answer to rebuilding Virgin Australia and the aviation industry. This deal will encourage workers to remain with the airline, while increased part-time hours and full-time positions will assist with on-time performance.”

For Virgin, attention now shifts to ongoing negotiations with cabin crew and pilots also now seeking to have workplace issues such as fatiguing rosters addressed in their own EBA negotiations.

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Written by: Matt Lennon
Published: 20 November 2023

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