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DNATA: Airport ground handlers push to strike over pay and understaffing

"Chronically overworked" ground crew at aviation company Dnata will today apply to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote on strike action over the company’s attempt to push through an agreement that gives pay cuts to experienced workers and below award minimum conditions.

“Chronically overworked” ground crew at aviation company Dnata will today apply to the Fair Work Commission to hold a vote on strike action over the company’s attempt to push through an agreement that gives pay cuts to experienced workers and below award minimum conditions.

More airport delays and flight cancellations could be on the way as Australian ground staff push to vote on whether to go on strike due to impending pay cuts, working conditions, and job security.

Global aviation company Dnata operates ground handling services and catering in 84 countries and including nine major Australian airports for airlines such as Emirates and Etihad.

The Dubai-based company picked up low-cost contracts for groundwork at Qantas after the airline cut its workforce, including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane international.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) is now calling for a Safe and Secure Skies Commission to fix the broken control system from privatised airports and airlines pushing down wages and conditions through contracting pressures.

According to the TWU, workers recently quashed a costly plan by Dnata to bring in overseas workers from Manila to fill rosters. At the same time, TWU alleges, Dnata is refusing to increase hours for part-time workers or provide more permanent full-time positions.

The TUW says that applying to hold a protected action ballot is the first step towards workers being given protections under the Fair Work Act to hold a strike, should a vote mainly favour action.

Image: Dnata

Ground crew have warned Dnata that chronic understaffing, airport chaos and safety incidents will only worsen if the company doesn’t offer secure jobs at higher rates to attract and retain workers.

A recent staff memo from Dnata said unsafe behaviour had led to aircraft and equipment damage, telling workers they’re not allowed to use the term ‘under the pump’ when things go wrong.

Since groundwork has been outsourced across the country, the TWU said there had been several safety incidents around Qantas aircraft, including belt loaders crashing into planes, locking pins left in landing gear and incorrect weight information given to pilots before take-off.

Workers at Dnata catering, who service most Australian and international airlines, are also considering taking action over low pay and conditions that frequently fall behind the Award.

The TWU says most migrant women in the kitchens are paid the lowest rates at just $21.54 per hour.

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said while industrial action was always the last resort, overworked, exhausted workers can’t allow their pay and conditions to go backwards.

“Dnata workers struggled through two years of stand down with no financial support from their employer or the Morrison government. After standing by the company through the hardest times and now working well beyond safe capacity while rosters are severely understaffed, the most experienced workers are facing pay cuts while conditions are below Award minimums.

“The Albanese Government must draw a line in the sand and introduce an independent Safe and Secure Skies Commission to rebalance the industry towards secure jobs with decent conditions and away from the corporate greed that’s ruining Australia’s once thriving aviation industry,” Kaine said.

For more, head to www.twu.com.au/safe-and-secure-skies