Updated: Jetstar cancels 30 flights as ground workers threaten more strikes

December 13, 2019
Photo: Jetstar

Jetstar said it canceled about 30 flights Friday as it was hit by industrial action that ground workers plan to repeat on December 19.

Members of the Transport Workers’ Union walked  off the job for two hours Friday morning and again in the evening at Sydney, Melbourne, Avalon, Brisbane, Adeliade and Cairns airports.

The union said it scheduled repeat action on December 19 after Jetstar refused to negotiate on the workers’ demands.

They are seeking a 4 percent pay rise —an amount outside the Qantas Group wage rise envelope of 3 percent —  and a guaranteed 30 hours of work per week.

READ: Qantas to order A350s if Project Sunrise proceeds.

They also want more rest breaks, 12-hour breaks between shifts and a commitment to engage Jetstar employees.

“Again we apologize to the traveling public for the disruption and we want to emphasis that this is the only course that Jetstar has left workers to take,” Transport Workers’ Union national secrteary Michael Kaine said.

“Jetstar workers are on forced part-time hours and poverty wages. They struggle to support their families and regularly can’t pay their bills.

The TWU upped the ante with a claim Friday that workers were at risk of serious injury at the airline because of understaffing.

The union said Safe Work NSW notices had highlighted inadequate safety procedures around operational aircraft and that a risk of aircraft colliding because machines were breaking down during tarmac operations.

“The airline has cut its staffing levels right back to the bone meaning workers are constantly under pressure,’’ Kaine said.

“Jetstar also allows broken equipment and machines to be kept in use despite the risk to workers and passengers. This is causing injury rates to go through the roof.”

Jetstar strongly denied the safety allegations and said its staffing levels were in line with global practices.

It accused the TWU of having a history of playing the safety card during disputes.

“We have robust safety management systems in place which are regularly reviewed and audited by a range of regulators, including CASA,’’ a spokesman said.

“Jetstar operates a containerized baggage loading system. This is a more mechanical system which requires less lifting of bags by our teams.

“In keeping with similar baggage loading systems globally, this process is operated by three crew.”

The company has also disputed that the ground workers are poorly paid.

Passengers face further disruptions Saturday and Sunday when pilots undertake four-hour work stoppages, also over pay and conditions.

The airline estimates about 90 flights will be canceled over the weekend but says its contingency plans will allow 95 percent of passengers to get to their destination on the original day of travel.