On September 12, ground handlers from Dnata who work for Qantas and more than a dozen other airlines will take a 24-hour strike.
Dnata employees approved the strike on Friday, with 350 crew members participating. When it appears before the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday, the ground crew and cargo company Dnata will attempt to prevent a strike next Monday.
The Transport Workers Union urges Dnata to improve pay and working conditions, including the minimum number of guaranteed hours.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas fired its own ground crew employees and began outsourcing jobs to organisations like Dnata. An airline spokeswoman said that Dnata should handle the negotiations and that the company had backup plans to minimise disruptions.
According to Michael Kaine, national secretary of the transport union, ground handlers couldn’t afford to stay in the industry, citing a decline in pay and working conditions.
“We need to rebalance aviation towards good, secure jobs that keep skilled workers in the industry and ensure the safety of the travelling public,” Kaine said.
He blamed Qantas’ outsourcing practices and the previous Morrison administration’s failure to provide JobKeeper payments to Dnata employees for the deteriorating working conditions.
Kaine urged the newly elected government in Alba to create a regulatory body to establish minimum standards for the sector.
A Dnata spokesman stated that although the company had made “highly competitive” pay offers to employees, it also needed to ensure its operations were financially stable.
He said, “We are disappointed that we have been unable to agree with the bargaining representatives to date.”
The strike won’t affect Virgin Australia, Australia’s other major airline.
A recent Federal Court decision finding the airline’s outsourcing of ground crew members to be unlawful is being contested by Qantas in the High Court.
If it loses the appeal, Qantas may be required to pay back the nearly 1700 employees it let go during the pandemic.
In Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, Dnata crews provide ground handling services for Qantas international flights; however, the company does not service Qantas domestic flights.
According to the Qantas spokeswoman, Dnata served more than 20 airlines in Australia so a strike might affect the entire industry.