The Guardian • Issue #1953

TWU warns against replacing JobKeeper with loans to businesses, urges equity stake to save jobs

Media release by the Transport Workers’ Union

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1953

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has warned against the Federal Government replacing JobKeeper for aviation workers with interest-free loans to businesses, saying the move will result in a skills-drain from the industry.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine called on the Federal Government to introduce Aviation Keeper, an extension to JobKeeper for all aviation workers with strict conditions capping CEO salaries, banning bonuses and dividends and banning outsourcing.

“Aviation is about to bleed skills as JobKeeper falls off a cliff. The only solution the Federal Government appears able to come up with is to replace it with free money to companies without any conditions attached on retaining workers. This exposes how the Federal Government has no plan and no strategy for aviation,” he said.

“Interest-free loans are another way of saying ‘bailout’. Now is the time for the Federal Government to secure a real return for the taxpayer and to take an equity stake in ailing aviation companies. This way the interests of passengers and workers can be at the forefront instead of the interests of CEOs and shareholders. We can retain skills in our industry and ensure affordable, reliable air travel throughout Australia rather than propping up senior management at the likes of Qantas which want the public subsidies but still get to call the shots, including outsourcing workers,” Kaine said.

A YouGov poll last year found a majority of people – sixty-two per cent – wanted the Government to take a stake in private companies which require bailouts, with fifty per cent stating Qantas should be nationalised and only twenty per cent opposed.

A survey of over 900 aviation workers last week showed that the jobs of almost ninety per cent continue to be affected by the pandemic with only eleven per cent back to working in their jobs with normal hours.

One in five workers remain stood down from their jobs and thirty-three per cent are working reduced hours.

The survey shows valuable skills have already been lost from the industry. Of the one in five workers who have left aviation or been made redundant, over thirty-five per cent had over twenty years’ experience and twenty-five per cent had between ten and twenty years’ experience.

Qantas is outsourcing all of its baggage handlers, ramp workers and cabin cleaners and is replacing them with workers on lower wages and conditions. The TWU has started a Federal Court case to stop the outsourcing.

The TWU and other unions are taking Qantas to the High Court over the airline’s refusal to pay workers sick leave and over JobKeeper misuse.

Qantas revealed in its latest annual report it is paying its senior executives millions of dollars. When Qantas announced its CEO received $24 million pay package he was the highest paid CEO in Australia and the highest paid airline executive in the world.

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