Call to extend aviation wage subsidy as stand-downs widen

August 16, 2021
Photo: Steve Creedy

The Australian government has again been urged to extend a wage subsidy to all stood-down aviation workers as the COVID delta variant continues to devastate the industry.

The call by the Transport Workers’ Union came as Rex and Virgin Australia join Qantas in standing down workers as lockdowns slash flying.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the federal government needed to act now to save thousands of jobs in aviation.

Kaine accused the government of “making an absolute mess of its support for aviation workers” and said its failure to bring in a universal wage subsidy was threatening jobs businesses and livelihood.

READ: Rex to stand down 500 staff as COVID bites deeper.

“This is a tough time for aviation workers after a year when they witnessed Virgin’s collapse and worked hard to get it back up on its feet,’’ he said.

“Many are still struggling from the months spent getting by on a meager income and draining their savings and super.”

Kaine said companies such as Virgin and ground-handling company dnata were scrambling to minimize disruption for stood down workers as workers grappled with loopholes in the federal government programs.

He said stood down workers in NSW already receiving single parent allowances through Centrelink had been told they could not receive the full disaster payment.

“Airline workers in NSW are being penalized if they are already in receipt of government support,’’ he said.

“Workers at ground handlers in many states are ineligible for any government payment despite aviation work being significantly disrupted.

“This is a major blow for workers in an industry which has been to hell and back.”

Rex announced on Friday that it would stand down 500 frontline employees from today, including pilots, cabin crew, engineers and airport workers. Call center, ground and head office staff are also affected.

Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka told staff in an email that temporary stand-downs would affect frontline staff around the country but there was no headline number for the cuts.

Qantas had previously announced 2500 workers would be stood down.