Transport Workers' Union

Reports of mishandled firearms, damaged aircraft and unbalanced plane loads at Swissport are consistent with a dossier of safety incidents revealed by the TWU in 2022, showing standards have plummeted and remained dangerously low since ground handling was illegally outsourced at Qantas.

Swissport was chosen by Qantas for its busiest Sydney and Melbourne Domestic ground work despite previous reports raised by the TWU of poor treatment of workers, including workers sleeping below baggage carousels and substandard enterprise agreements being thrown out by the Fair Work Commission.

A TWU survey of Swissport workers in 2022 found 81% were concerned about understaffing, and 62% had been so fatigued at work they’d worried about a safety incident occurring.

Despite findings in the Federal Court, Full Court of Appeal and High Court that Qantas illegally outsourced 1700 ground workers, the airline has argued in court that the workers should neither be reinstated nor compensated.

The TWU obtained a commitment from Virgin Australia to insource more ground handling work, but the airline currently uses Swissport at some airports such as Perth.

The TWU last week wrote to Virgin Australia outraged over the consideration as new CEO of one of the architects of Qantas’ illegal outsourcing, Paul Jones.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas has denied publicly and in court that there is any issue with standards since illegally outsourcing ground work, while reportedly flagging incidents and demanding improvements from Swissport.

“The TWU has been sounding the alarm on Swissport’s practices since 2014, yet in light of numerous safety breaches, Qantas has chosen and defended Swissport as their primary outsourced ground handler since illegally sacking its own ground workers.

“Despite the plummet in standards, Qantas has argued in the Federal Court that illegally sacked workers should neither be reinstated nor receive a dollar of compensation. It’s breathtaking. It proves that this executive team needs reining in through regulatory oversight of the industry.

“TWU members are outraged that Virgin Australia is now considering as CEO one of the architects of Qantas’ illegal outsourcing decision – a person found by the Federal Court to have been motivated by a prohibited reason under the Fair Work Act, and to be an unreliable witness.

“Aviation has spiralled out of control and needs to be rebalanced. The union movement has joined the TWU and ASU in calling for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to set binding standards and ensure workers, passengers and the community are prioritised.”

Click here for the 2022 dossier of Swissport safety incidents

Click here for the 2022 TWU Swissport survey results

/Public Release. View in full here.