Transport Workers' Union

Virgin Australia’s market update fails to acknowledge the efforts of overworked and underpaid ground, cabin crew and pilots who built up its $129 million profit while many workers earn Award minimum wages, says the TWU.

All three workgroups are currently in bargaining with the airline after years of sacrifices and covid restraint to help get Virgin Australia back on track.

The majority of ground and cabin crew are on Award minimum pay rates, while pilots have also fallen drastically behind. Pilots have started to leave Australia for higher-paying jobs overseas, while some cabin crew and ground workers have reported needing second jobs to survive.

During bargaining, workers are looking to fix issues including fatigue-related absenteeism, underemployment, and classifications that haven’t kept up with responsibilities or workload.

Workers are yet to receive a response from Bain Capital to their five-point claim, delivered in August. It included:

  1. Respect for workers

    Address cultural issues that have led to high turnover, absenteeism and disputation

  2. Good, secure jobs

    All ground, cabin crew and pilots to be insourced in good, secure jobs

  3. Ongoing investment

    Invest in technology, fleet and workers to maintain and grow safe, fair standards

  4. Employee share scheme

    Annual $1,000 employee share scheme in conjunction with IPO

  5. Industry reform

    Support the campaign for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebalance aviation

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said:

“Virgin Australia’s return to profit is welcome news, but tainted with a failure to credit workers for their hard work and sacrifices. Workers should be proud of their achievement, but this announcement is another disappointing response for staff whose patience is running out.

“It’s high time the airline held up its side of the bargain by recognising workers publicly, financially and by listening to their concerns.

“This financial return was generated by workers for whom ‘under the pump’ is an understatement. Despite struggling on Award minimum pay rates, Virgin Australia ground crew and cabin crew have worked themselves to the bone servicing aircraft on skeleton staff, often missing breaks to get the job done. Pilot and cabin crew fatigue is through the roof, with inadequate rostering systems adding to the headache.

“With bargaining underway above and below the wing, it’s time to see these profits repaid to workers to compensate for their sacrifices and ensure they can work safely. The lowest paid workers are struggling to get by, even seeking extra jobs to pay the bills. We need to see a meaningful rebalancing of wages and conditions to avoid further staff burnout and high turnover.

“Virgin Australia owners Bain Capital made commitments to workers when they took over the airline. Now it’s time to show those commitments weren’t just hot air, by responding to the reasonable five-point plan workers put to them in August.

“Aviation is rebounding in profits, but workers are struggling to make ends meet and standards remain at rock bottom.

“Australia needs a robust aviation industry. For that, Federal Parliament must pass reform to close labour hire loopholes that have been exploited by Qantas and decimated standards across airports. An independent commission should also be established to oversee and set appropriate standards for the industry.”

/Public Release. View in full here.