The quality of airline travel has declined since international travel restrictions ended almost two years ago now. Cancellations and lost luggage are now expected by most travellers. Airline staff have also raised concerns over cost-cutting measures that have made the flying experience worse both for them and passengers.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that this trend will abate any time soon. Travellers over the coming Christmas holiday season may have to brace for even more delays and disruptions as Virgin Australia staff consider striking over their current working conditions.
According to the Transport Workers Union (TWU), both ground crew and cabin crew workers for the airline will soon vote on a strike action over “poverty pay, job insecurity and unsafe conditions”.
Three weeks ago, Virgin ground crew applied for a Protected Action Ballot which has now been approved by the Fair Work Commission. Virgin failed in an application to have strike notification times extended from three days to seven days.
Today (Monday the 13th of November), Virgin cabin crew applied for a Protected Action Ballot as well. Should the ballot be approved, they will also vote on whether to strike. Should a strike proceed from either or both crews, there will be significant disruption to Virgin flights even if the overall duration is brief.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine explained that the potential strike will hopefully improve passenger safety as well as helping staff.
“Pay and conditions are inextricably linked to aviation workers’ ability to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. Protected industrial action is always a last resort, but our members know there are no second chances at 30,000 feet,” he said.
“Our cabin crew, ground crew and pilot members have all reported fears of mistakes being made due to their unsustainable working conditions, made worse by high turnover, fatigue-related absenteeism, and juggling second or third jobs.
“Workers are utterly exhausted, with several cabin crew members reporting near-misses on their drive home from long shifts. We need to see a considerable shift in Virgin’s bargaining approach to ensure a fair, sustainable enterprise agreement offer and avoid last resort strikes,” he further explained.
According to the TWU, the ballot applications happened after Virgin cancelled a meeting in which it had committed to respond to workers’ claims for a living wage and safe conditions with an updated agreement offer.
Virgin were confident in their ability to negotiate a new agreement in a recent statement.
“It is important to note that the current Cabin Crew Agreement expired less than two weeks ago. Since that time, Virgin Australia has continued to bargain in good faith, and with a clear commitment to relevant unions of our intention to reach an amicable solution on a new agreement,” they said.
They will meet with the union on November 15th for further negotiations.