Jetstar passengers face delays and cancellations next week with industrial action by ground crew and pilots set to continue amid a standoff with management over pay and conditions.
About 20 flights were cancelled on Friday when ground crew and baggage handlers walked off the job for four hours at major airports. Another 90 flights have been cancelled on Saturday and Sunday, when pilots will take part in four-hour strikes.
The Transport Workers Union said on Friday afternoon that its ground crew and baggage handler members will strike again on Thursday after Jetstar rejected its demands over a new wage deal.
“We apologise to the travelling public for the disruption and we want to emphasis that this is the only course that Jetstar has left workers to take,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.
Australian Federation of Air Pilots have not announced any strike action past this weekend, but will conduct potentially disruptive low-level action, including refusing to be called in to work on rostered days off, or working outside their rostered hours.
A Jetstar spokeswoman said it was largely “business as usual” on Friday, after it announced on Wednesday which flights would not operate and moved passengers onto other flights.
On Thursday afternoon SafeWork NSW ordered Jetstar to improve the safety of its ground crew operations after an inspection of Sydney Airport discovered crew were at risk of serious injury.
That included “being crushed, ingested or other” due to “inadequate safe work procedures”, which the TWU said validated its claim that Jetstar’s staff levels were “dangerously low”.
A copy of the SafeWork notice seen by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age says Jetstar failed to ensure that a full crew of four workers and one supervisor remained allocated to an aircraft until all tasks were completed and before they moved on to work on another plane.
A Jetstar spokeswoman said that the airline uses a mechanical baggage loading system which is operated by only three crew.
“We would never put the safety of our people or passengers at risk,” she said.
“We have robust safety management systems in place which are regularly reviewed and audited by a range of regulators, including CASA.”
The Jetstar spokeswoman said that its network-wide injury statistics were on par with last year, with fewer authorised days off due to injury.
“The TWU has a history of playing the safety card when it suits them, and this is another example of that,” she said.
The pilots union has said it will pause its action through the peak holiday travel period of December 21 to January 3, but has the option of resuming strike action after that.
This weekend will be the first time Jetstar pilots have taken protected industrial action since the airline was founded 15 years ago, and it comes as industrial tension across the Qantas group rises to its highest level since Alan Joyce’s grounding of the Qantas fleet in 2011.
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