Jetstar cancels 48 flights as politicians call for more talks

February 17, 2020
Photo: Steve Creedy

Almost 25 percent of Jetstar domestic flights will be canceled Wednesday as a result of industrial action but most affected passengers have already been re-accommodated or offered a refund.

The airline has canceled 48 of the roughly 200 domestic flights it operates daily.

No international flights are affected and the airline says domestic passengers whose flights were canceled were switched over the weekend to Qantas or alternate Jetstar services.

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“To minimize the impact of the TWU’s stop-work action, we have developed a contingency plan that protects our customers’ travel, with most customers on impacted flights set to travel within a few hours of their original departure time and all customers getting to their destinations same day,’’ a spokesman said.

“To achieve this we have consolidated some services and moved other customers to Qantas flights where necessary.”

Members of the Transport Workers’ Union are planning 24-hour rolling stoppages on Wednesday in response to a move by Jetstar management to put a deal about pay and conditions directly to workers.

More than 250 workers will be involved in the action at Sydney, Melbourne, Avalon, Brisbane, Cairns and Adelaide airports.

Jetstar if offering a package that includes a 3 percent annual pay increase, a year’s worth of back pay for each employee as well as a range of other benefits related to rosters.

But the union says the dispute is a battle about underemployment and that the company broke off talks after rejecting claims that included a minimum 30-hour working week and rosters that do not constantly change.

It says the ground workers are the lowest paid in the Qantas Group and many are guaranteed just  20 hours of work a week.

The dispute has attracted the attention of Canberra with senior politicians from both major parties urging the sides to resume talks.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter weighed into the dispute on Friday, arguing this was not the right time for the union to be taking action as the tourism industry reels from the aftermath of the bushfires and the coronavirus outbreak.

“That is ultimately bad for workers because any escalation in industrial action will only cause further harm to the image of Australia as an international tourist destination and will also impact on the confidence of domestic travelers as they consider local travel plans,” he said

Opposition Industrial Relations spokesman Tony Burke entered the debate Monday with another call for the parties to resume talks.

Burke met ground staff at Sydney Airport and echoed the union’s claim that the dispute was a battle against underemployment.

He said many workers were struggling to make ends meet.

“These are good, loyal workers – but they have been put in a situation where they have no choice but to stand up for themselves,” he said.

“No one wants disruptive industrial action. That’s why Jetstar must return to the bargaining table.”