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Virgin ground workers have been stood down as a direct result of the federal government axing JobKeeper, the Transport Workers’ Union says after filing a dispute in the Fair Work Commission.
The union said 804 employees had been affected but a Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the dispute was only in relation to about 170 ground staff.
“The majority of ground staff affected are currently working close to their full normal hours,” she said.
“None are fully stood down.”
The union’s complaint comes after the government rejected the sector’s calls for a special replacement scheme dubbed “Aviation Keeper” but introduced a new $500 per week wage subsidy for those working in international aviation.
“Surprise, surprise, Qantas are the only ones getting it since Virgin has no international crew remaining,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said on Wednesday.
“This disastrous move by Scott Morrison means domestic aviation workers have been cut adrift and Virgin workers are now worried sick about how they will pay their bills and feed their families.
“Just a few days after JobKeeper died we are already seeing the effect.
“We are again asking the Prime Minister to save jobs in aviation and to reverse the decision to kill JobKeeper.”
The TWU says 804 Virgin ground crew have been stood down. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAPSource:AAP
An email from Virgin to pit crew said they would be stood down from March 29 to April 18 unless advised otherwise.
“During the stand down, you remain employed but are not required to attend work for the hours you are stood down, and you will not be paid for those hours,” head of aircraft maintenance and ramp services Job VandenHeuvel wrote.
“Your service will continue and you will continue to accrue leave entitlements.
“You may elect to convert your stand-down period to paid annual leave or long service leave.
“We understand that this is a difficult time for everyone and we thank you for your understanding.”
Mr Kaine described the industry as “teetering on the brink … clearly not able to bounce back while the pandemic endures”.
“Flights are being cancelled right now into Brisbane because of the lockdown,” he noted.
Virgin is telling workers its flying schedule means the work is not there for them and it can only roster them on partially, the TWU says. Picture: Lachie MillardSource:News Corp Australia
The Virgin spokeswoman said the airline was working hard to ramp up flying to enable more hours and roster flexibility across its operational workforce.
“Since October 2020 Virgin Australia has been consulting and discussing its rostering practices with its workers and union representatives as border restrictions decrease,” she said.
“Prior to the tightened border restrictions put in place by some states earlier this week, it has been our intention to have all of our ground staff return to work in their pre-COVID capacity.”
Mr Kaine also labelled Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cheap flights plan “a cheap trick played on aviation workers”.
The $1.2bn scheme announced with great fanfare at a Qantas maintenance hangar earlier this month involves the government covering 50 per cent of selected airfares between April 1 and July 31 and was widely criticised as most of the destinations were in Queensland.
The TWU is already outraged Qantas has outsourced its baggage handlers, ramp workers and cabin cleaners, costing thousands of jobs as it seeks to save cash and survive the health crisis.
Also on Wednesday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission issued a report showing aggregate operating profit from aeronautical activities at Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney airports dropped by 55.4 per cent in 2019-20.
“The pandemic has devastated the aviation sector and airports are no exception,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
This article first appeared on www.news.com.au
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