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VIRGIN AUSTRALIA: Engineers set for 13.5% payrise

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA: Engineers set for 13.5% payrise

It’s been a year in the making but it looks like a small band of engineers who service the Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) fleet of West Australian-based Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) will agree to the pay offer.

The Commission was set to conduct its first hearing on the newly proclaimed ‘intractable bargaining’ laws. The new laws allow the Fair Work Commission to make a call if a dispute is classified as ‘intractable’. With two years of, unsuccessful negotiations between VARA and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association (ALAEA), it is thought that this dispute would qualify.

Part of the 13.5% proposal to be put to the 50-odd affected engineers, is the withdrawl of the dispute from the Fair Work Commission. Members of the ALAEA are expected to vote to accept the offer.

The offer compensates the engineers for the wage freeze imposed during the pandemic, despite the fact that the FIFO sector was one of the few aviation sectors that maintained profitable operations during the pandemic.

If accepted, this offer and wage rise could set the tone for the wider negotiations between Virgin Australia and the 350-odd engineers that service other aspects of its fleet.

Virgin Australia Lounge entrance, Melbourne
Virgin Australia Lounge entrance, Melbourne

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With shortages of staff, including pilots, engineers, cabin, security and baggage handling staff, unions haven’t been in this strong a bargaining position for a while.

VARA’s offer includes compensation to the engineers for the two-year wage freeze during the pandemic. Acceptance will avoid the Fair Work Commission from making its first decision on the concept of an ‘intractable bargaining’ dispute. It would have been good to have the court interpret this position, which would bring some certainty to its interpretation.

The potential resolution of the dispute just delays that inevitable interpretation of the concept by the Fair Work Commission. You can read a more detailed report in the AFR.

Let’s hope that engineers agree to the offer, which will see one less industrial dispute potentially disrupting Virgin Australia’s operations.

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