Airport staff fight for job security and pay rises
by Andrew Jackson Rolling stopwork meetings involving 600 staff affected Melbourne Airport last week, as Firefighters and Air Traffic Controllers demonstrated their frustration after a 14-month battle over job security and pay rises. Firefighters at the airport held a two-hour stopwork meeting on Thursday following a four-hour meeting by air traffic controllers the day before. Job security remains the primary issue for the five unions involved in the dispute with Airservices Australia, the national air traffic control organisation. The unions said that Airservices had halved the number of staff in the past decade, as parts of the organisation were privatised. Airservices Australia, said they had clearly demonstrated their commitment to the negotiations, offering airport staff a generous deal: a three percent pay rise plus productivity bonuses and profit sharing that could be worth up to six per cent a year. But they claimed that the industrial action by the air traffic controllers was akin to "holding a gun to our heads". However, the unions involved said they would not trade-off job security or working conditions in return for the payrise. The unions said the deal offered by Airservices would also discriminate against future employees, by commencing them on wages and conditions below that offered to current staff. Ted Lang, President of the Civil Air Operations Officers Association said that this would create an underclass of new "budget" air traffic controllers. Although refusing Airservices application to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to halt the stoppages, the AIRC did "recommend" to the unions to call them off. In a response to Commissioner Barbara Deegan's request, the Acting National Secretary of the Communications Union, Doug Lilly, said the Union "wholeheartedly" agreed that genuine negotiations needed to take place, and that some compromise was needed. However, Mr Lilly also said "We are also concerned with the approach Airservices has taken to the negotiations to date, including consistently providing information to staff that in our view is misleading. "Our experience over the last 14 months is that Airservices has been unprepared to compromise until forced to." After the stopwork, the unions went straight back into negotiations with Airservices, inviting not only the company's industrial negotiators, but also the acting CEO to attend. Meanwhile: The Secretary of the United Firefighters Union in Victoria, Peter Marshall, announced on Sunday that he had resigned from the ALP. He accused the Bracks Labor Government of poorer industrial relations than the previous Kennett Liberal Government.