Jetstar workers began two 2-hour strikes this morning as Safe Work NSW gave the airline notice that its ground operations are dangerously understaffed with workers at risk of “serious injury” from being crushed by aircraft.
The workplace safety regulator issued a notice to Jetstar at Sydney airport just hours ahead of the strikes, warning of understaffing and crews being allocated to work on two aircraft at time. The notice highlights “inadequate safety procedures” around operational aircraft leaving workers at risk of being “crushed, ingested, or other”.
The notice follows a previous warning from Safe Work NSW over workers at risk of collision with moving aircraft because of machines breaking down during operations on the tarmac.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the notices from Safe Work NSW’s confirm what workers have been saying about Jetstar. “Safe Work NSW is lifting the lid on what workers have been enduring at Jetstar. The airline has cut its staffing levels right back to the bone meaning workers are constantly under pressure. Jetstar also allows broken equipment and machines to be kept in use despite the risk to workers and passengers. This is causing injury rates to go through the roof. In just a few months workers have reported a broken hand, detached bicep, concussion and shoulder, back and neck injuries that have required surgery. These workers are chronically fatigued and stressed out because of working conditions,” he said.
“Workers are expected to do the same back-breaking work – lifting thousands of kilos of baggage and operating heavy machinery – but with half the staff. We want Jetstar to start investing in its infrastructure, its people and to lift standards on safety for workers and passengers,” he added.
Jetstar workers are taking strike action following a rejection of all their claims by Jetstar, including claims related to safety such as more rest breaks, 12-hour breaks between shifts and a commitment to engaging Jetstar employees rather than untrained casual staff. Jetstar workers earn the lowest rates in the Qantas group and are seeking a 4% pay rise, following the 18-month pay freeze, and guaranteed 30 hours work a week.
“We have payslips showing Jetstar workers on as little as 20 hours a week earning barely over $470. These are poverty wages. Jetstar workers aren’t looking for the $3 million the Jetstar CEO earns and they are not looking for the $24 million the Qantas CEO earns. The simply want fair and safe jobs,” Kaine added.