Ground staff and baggage handlers threaten to strike, raising fears of further delays at major Australian airports

Long queues, flight cancellations and baggage delays at major Australian airports could worsen, with “chronically overworked” ground staff threatening to go on strike over pay and working conditions.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said around 700 employees of baggage and ramp operations at global airline Dnata, will address the Fair Work Commission today to hold a vote on the action protest.

The TWU says the company is trying to push through an “unpleasant” new labor agreement that “gives pay cuts to workers who are experienced and below minimum award terms”.

Owned by Dubai-based Emirates airline, Dnata provides ground handling, cargo and inflight catering services to up to 20 airlines, including Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Etihad and Air Canada, at several major Australian airports .

He landed low-cost contracts for ground work at Qantas after the airline laid off some of its workforce due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 has been causing problems at airports for months.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

Filing a claim means staff would be protected under the Fair Work Act if they vote for industrial action, which could impact thousands of travelers at Brisbane airports, Sydney and Melbourne.

The TWU said the ground crew had warned Dnata that “chronic understaffing, airport chaos and security incidents” would worsen unless the company offered more secure jobs to workers. higher prices.

He said there had been “several safety incidents” around Qantas planes recently, including “belt chargers crashed into planes, locking pins left in landing gear and information from incorrect weights given to pilots before take-off”.

A baggage handler overlooks loading baggage onto the plane.
The company is also carrying out preparatory work for Qantas after laying off some of its workforce due to the pandemic.(ABC News: Giulio Saggin)

TWU National Assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh said that while the strike was a “last resort”, workers had no other choice.

“We must remember that this group did not receive payments from Jobkeeper due to a quirk introduced by the last federal government.

“The main hope is that the management of Dnata will come to their senses…and come up with an offer that at least matches the cost of living and starts to move down the path of creating more secure jobs.”

Mr McIntosh said the TWU was calling for an independent tribunal to examine structural problems within the aviation sector.

“The aviation sector has been in crisis for many years…over the past 15 years we have seen wages and conditions drop in real terms by 10-15% from what they were,” he said. said Mr. McIntosh.

“We need the feds to step in and say ‘enough’ to restore order.”

Queue at the airport on Monday
Massive queues seen outside Sydney Airport on Monday caused by fog.(Instagram: @drewboyweston)

Australia’s airports have been strained in recent weeks with long queues, flight cancellations and lost luggage, due to COVID and flu-related staff shortages, weather disruptions and demand of pent-up trips.

Dense fog caused massive queues through security and flight delays at Sydney Airport yesterday, with travelers waiting in queues stretching outside the terminal.

Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne airports have been contacted for comment.

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