The TWU is appealing to Qantas to end its business model of forced underemployment as the company reports profits of $771 million in just six months.
The bumper profits and increased revenues of 3.5% were announced a day after Jetstar workers were forced to take strike action, as the company broke off talks and refused to negotiate on a deal which will see many guaranteed no more than 20 hours a week.
Thousands of employees across the Qantas Group are also underemployed, including cabin crew at Qantas and Jetstar and baggage handlers, ramp workers, cleaners and caterers at Qantas Ground Services.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said Qantas as one of Australia’s major employers and iconic brands must end the practice of keeping its workforce desperate and constantly struggling for more hours.
“Qantas doesn’t want an efficient, productive workforce. It wants an army of desperate people, utterly compliant and willing to accept dreadful conditions because all they can focus on is picking up more hours so they can support their families. This is not a way to run an airline which will have a long-term future, this is a way to ruin a company through inefficiencies and safety risks,” Kaine said.
“It is utterly disappointing that Jetstar refused to rule out grounding the airline given it was the party which shut down negotiations last week. There is no possible justification for inflicting self-destruction on the company and mayhem on the travelling public. My question to Jetstar is: what does it cost to talk to your workers?” he added.
“All workers in the Qantas Group want the airline to be successful and profitable and they have made huge sacrifices, including taking an 18-month wage freeze, to ensure this. But they refuse to continue seeing their families struggle because the company won’t make a commitment to guarantee them 30 hours a week. These workers are not asking for the million-dollar pay packets of the Qantas CEO or the Jetstar CEO. They simply want more hours,” Kaine added.
A survey of Jetstar workers shows almost 80% have been injured at work and 80% struggle to pay bills. Almost 90% said they want more hours while 45% said they have had to contact their bank to delay payments.
One worker stated in the survey: “Stress, pain, agony, relationships failure. Don’t wanna be with family because of the feeling too poor to do things with them. Can’t afford to be with them.”
Another said: “I have to work seven days a week just to get 38 hours a week. I work around 340 days a year just to support my family. I have a wife and a son which I barely see because of the six-day, 30-hour roster.”
Jetstar contracts work to Swissport, which the Fair Work Commission ruled last year was underpaying its workers. Jetstar has also been engaging more exploited Swissport workers instead of its own Jetstar staff since workers voted for industrial action in December.
Jetstar has rejected workers’ claims for a guaranteed minimum 30 hours a week, stable rosters that don’t constantly change, a commitment to engage Jetstar employees rather than untrained, exploited labour hire workers and appropriate pay rates for workers continually performing higher duties.
Jetstar has said if workers do not accept the substandard agreement it is putting to a vote on Monday it will refuse to pay them a rate increase they were due in March 2019, which would be another wage freeze. Jetstar workers have already been told they will not receive the bonus Qantas announced after its bumper $1.3 billion profit last year because of their strike action in December.
Jetstar workers held strikes in December but called a moratorium over Christmas and during the bushfire relief effort.
Qantas announced today that Jetstar’s revenues went up 14% over three years. Australia’s four major airports, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, made over $2.2 billion in profit last year, according to the ACCC. Jetstar’s CEO earns $3.7 million while the Qantas Group CEO earned $24 million.