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INDUSTRIAL ACTION: Firefighters to strike 6 to 10 am, Friday 9 December

INDUSTRIAL ACTION: Firefighters to strike 6 to 10 am, Friday 9 December

The 4-hour stop-work action will cover 27 airports, covering every state and territory, including Adelaide, Alice Springs, Ballina, Brisbane, Broome, Canberra, Coffs Harbour, Darwin, Gold Coast, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney amongst others.

It will affect domestic and international flights, but may be different from airline to airline. Some airlines will not operate without firefighters on duty at the airports they visit, while others do not have this requirement.

The United Firefighters Union, aviation branch announced the strike today, Tuesday 29 November. The dispute is part of the months-long process of negotiation over staffing levels and safety concerns with employer Airservices Australia. About 100 firefighters took up the offer of voluntary redundancy back at the height of the pandemic in October 2021, when no one was flying. With passengers back at over 80% of pre-pandemic levels now, those staff have apparently not been replaced.

an airplane on the runway
Sydney International Airport T1

What do the firefighters want

The union wants a minimum staffing level clause written into the new enterprise agreement with Airservices Australia, as well as the intervention of the federal government to make it happen.

Not the only strike

The holidays could be potentially chaotic, with the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) announcing that its Qantas domestic flight attendant members have also voted to support strike action due to the airline’s latest pay offer. And this is at a time when Australian passengers are paying record-high domestic fare prices. Prices this high – like AU $500 for Sydney/Melbourne flights on a budget carrier like Jetstar – were last seen back in March of 2004.

a group of people sitting in a row
Happier times with Qantas CEO and staff

2PAXfly Takeout

I love digital, except when my phone dies, which happened to me on the last night of my recent visit to New Zealand

Now, I am no union basher, but disrupting travel-starved Australians who are paying sky-high prices for long-delayed holidays is not the way to win the hearts and minds of passengers. Qantas, always hard-nosed at the barricades of industrial relations, will not shy away from this confrontation if past behaviour is any guide. It’s making money hand over fist despite some dents to its reputation. Any disruption will be blamed on the unions, as it has every other time.

My message to unions is – be careful. With a labour government sympathetic to your concerns and trying to re-design an industrial relations system that will even out the power balance between employers and employees. Don’t serve the employers who have been singing strike doom and gloom over the system changes a reason to say, ‘We told you so!’

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