The Guardian March 20, 2002


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.

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