Virgin hit with legal dispute after standing down ground workers

Virgin hit with legal dispute after standing down ground workers

A legal dispute has been filed against Virgin Australia in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) today after the airline made the decision to stand down 170 ground workers.

The case, filed by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), alleges all ground workers were stood down in the absence of JobKeeper wage subsidies that were recently killed off.

Further, the TWU claimed Virgin's ground crew were stood down because domestic aviation failed to return to normal levels before the wage subsidies were removed.

According to the union, workers were told they would only be rostered on partially in the coming weeks and many would not work their minimum hours.

However, in a statement from a Virgin spokesperson, the airline says only 170 ground staff were stood down; not all of them as claimed by the TWU.

Further, the spokesperson says the majority of ground staff affected are currently working close to their full normal hours.

"Reports that Virgin Australia has fully stood down its ground crew in the wake of Job Keeper ending today are categorically false - none are fully stood down," says the spokesperson from Virgin.

"We are working hard to ramp up our flying to enable more hours and roster flexibility across our 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.

"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."

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the standing down of Virgin employees is a direct result of the Federal Government's decision to halt the JobKeeper program.

"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," he said.

"Flights are being cancelled right now into Brisbane because of the lockdown. Aviation is teetering on the brink and is clearly not able to bounce back while the pandemic endures.

"Virgin is telling workers its flying schedule means the work is not there for them and it can only roster them on partially. Yet again it is aviation workers who are having to take the hit over the Federal Governments failings,"

According to the TWU, a survey of more than 900 aviation workers showed the jobs of almost 90 per cent continue to be affected by the pandemic, with just 11 per cent working pre-pandemic hours.

One in five workers remain stood down from their jobs, and 33 per cent are working reduced hours, according to the survey.

"The Prime Minister has refused to meet aviation workers to hear why a wage subsidy, even with short term extensions, is vital," Kaine said.

"We are again asking the Prime Minister to save jobs in aviation and to reverse the decision to kill JobKeeper."

The TWU's latest FWC dispute comes as it is involved in a number of legal actions against Qantas (ASX: QAN), with the union alleging the airline engaged in "morally bankrupt behaviour", outsourced ground handling despite receiving taxpayer money, and denied sick leave to workers with long-term illnesses.

"We believe that not only is the move by Qantas management to kill off the jobs of 2000 workers morally wrong it is also illegal under the Fair Work Act," Kaine sad.

"Denying sick workers the leave they have built up and pushing them in some case out of their jobs in order to access redundancy payments to pay bills is utterly despicable."

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