Australian airlines including Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Rex will be able to claim $750 a week for half of their pilots and flight attendants in a bid to ward off another round of job losses.
The airlines will claim 50 per cent of their domestic aircrew workforce if they can show a 30 per cent downturn since Sydney became a national COVID-19 hotspot over five weeks ago.
Should Sydney’s lockdown drag on, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce flagged airlines could claim subsidies for an even greater proportion of aircrew.
However, airlines cannot claim payments for employed ground crew and won’t be able to retrench workers if they want to be part of the scheme.
Domestic airlines will be eligible regardless of whether they’re operating in a hotspot, as long as they can show they’ve suffered because of lockdowns.
The federal government has already spent about $4.5 billion propping up airlines during the pandemic.
This latest round of assistance is estimated to cost around $100 million, depending on demand from airlines.
Two existing aviation support programs to maintain major domestic routes and ensure essential flights continue to regional communities will be extended until the year’s end.
The government-funded half-price flights’ program announced in March is also now being extended to November 30.
At the time, the package also included support to keep 8600 Qantas and Virgin Australia international aviation workers employed between April and the end of October, which was the earliest chance anticipated for flights overseas to resume.
Despite the additional funding announcement for airlines, Qantas and Jetstar declared just hours later that they would stand down 2500 employees without pay for two months regardless from mid-August.
According to the Qantas Group, pilots, cabin crew and airport workers, mostly in NSW, will be stood down but won’t lose their jobs.
Qantas boss Alan Joyce on Tuesday said the company was working on the assumption Sydney’s borders would be closed for at least another two months.
“This is clearly the last thing we want to do, but we’re now faced with an extended period of reduced flying, and that means no work for a number of our people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Transport Workers Union National Secretary Michael Kaine said today is a big blow for aviation workers.
“Aviation workers will today be reeling from this latest news. There is utter confusion over who will receive the wage subsidy. Qantas says it won’t pay workers stood down, but the Federal Government says it will only pay supports to cabin crew and pilots – and even then, only half of them. The Federal Government and Qantas are playing a game of Russian roulette with aviation workers over who will be able to pay their bills and who won’t,” he said.
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