SafeWork NSW has ordered Jetstar to improve the safety of its ground crew operations, which workers walking off the job on Friday say supports their claim that the airline is understaffed.
The workplace safety authority issued the budget airline with an “improvement notice” on Thursday afternoon after an inspection at Sydney Airport discovered ground crew were at risk of serious injury. Risks included “being crushed, ingested or other” due to “inadequate safe work procedures”.
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 spokesman for SafeWork confirmed the notice was “regarding safe work procedures relating to airline ground crews” and that an investigation was ongoing.
It comes as 250 Jetstar baggage handlers and ground crew hold two two-hour strikes at various times at the Sydney, Melbourne, Avalon, Brisbane, Cairns and Adelaide airports on Friday, which has prompted Jetstar to cancel 18 scheduled flights and reschedule others. Jetstar employs about 380 ground crew and baggage handlers.
A Jetstar spokeswoman said that the airline “would never put the safety of our people or passengers at risk”.
“We have robust safety management systems in place which are regularly reviewed and audited by a range of regulators, including CASA,” she said.
‘Injuries are through the roof’
The Transport Workers Union, which represents ground crew, is locked in wage negotiations with the airline, and claims that its members face irregular work hours and unsafe conditions due to understaffing.
TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said that SafeWork NSW’s notice “confirms what workers have been telling us for months: that staffing levels at the airline are dangerously low.”
“Workers are expected to do the same back-breaking work – lifting thousands of kilos of baggage and operating heavy machinery – but with half the staff,” Mr Kaine said.
“The deliberate understaffing means injuries are through the roof.”
The Jetstar spokeswoman said the TWU had “a history of playing the safety card when it suits them, and this is another example of that”.
Jetstar has cancelled another 90 flights over Saturday and Sunday when pilots will conduct four-hour strikes amid a stand-off over their new wage deal.
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.
Jetstar ground crew strike times:
Sydney: 5.30am-7.30am and 5.30pm-7.30pm
Melbourne: 9.30am-11.30am and 4pm-6pm
Brisbane: 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm
Adelaide: 6am-8am and 6pm-8pm
Cairns:5.30am-7.30am and 1.30pm-3.30pm
Avalon: 8.30am-10.30am and 6.30pm-8.30pm
Source: Thanks smh.com