Friday 2nd of December 2022

handle with care….

International travellers using Qantas face potential delays as baggage handlers prepare to walk off the job.

Ground handlers from Dnata, who are contracted to Qantas and other airlines, will walk off the job for 24 hours on Monday, September 12.

The industrial action was agreed to by Dnata workers on Friday with some 350 crew to strike.

It follows calls by the Transport Workers Union for Dnata to lift pay and conditions, including minimum guaranteed work hours.

Qantas sacked its own ground crew staff at the height of the COVID pandemic and moved to outsourcing roles to companies such as Dnata.

An airline spokeswoman said the negotiations were a matter for Dnata and the carrier had contingency plans in place to curb disruptions.

The transport union’s national secretary Michael Kaine said ground handlers couldn’t afford to stay in the industry because of a drop in pay and conditions.

“We need to rebalance aviation towards good, secure jobs that keep skilled workers in the industry and ensure the safety of the travelling public,” Mr Kaine said.

Morrison government’s legacy

He pinned the fall in conditions on Qantas’ outsourcing and the lack of JobKeeper payments for Dnata workers under the former Morrison government.

Mr Kaine called on the Albanese government to establish a regulatory body to set minimum standards across the industry.

Qantas is challenging in the High Court a recent Federal Court decision declaring the airlines’ outsourcing of 2000 ground crew workers as illegal.

If it loses the appeal, Qantas could owe compensation to the nearly 1700 workers it sacked during the pandemic.

Dnata crews provide ground-handling services to Qantas international flights in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The company does not handle baggage for Qantas domestic flights.

The airline spokeswoman said Dnata provided services to more than 20 airlines across Australia and the industrial action would have potential impacts across the sector.





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flying higher on longer hours…..

Qantas has an enviable safety record, consistently ranked as either the safest airline in the world or not far from it.

Since the dawn of the Jet Age, it has never suffered a fatal accident or lost an aeroplane hull, which is a credit to its staff and its leadership.

But in the aviation chaos of the past few months — amid huge numbers of delayed flights, cancelled flights, and after the loss of experienced staff — employees have told us about their fears that the stellar reputation of the airline they love could be undermined.

 "As frustrating as it is for passengers, for pilots it means we're working a lot harder to keep the flights on schedule," one Qantas pilot said.

 "We're working longer hours. We are red-lining, running at max capacity in a very dynamic, challenging environment. There's a lot that can go wrong."

A licensed engineer told ABC's Four Corners: "The planned work for the night, we used to get through it, what they planned for us almost every night. Now, the first thing we do is have a look at what work is up to its time limit and has to be done, so the plane can fly the next day."

We can't name the many employees we spoke to because they could be sacked for raising their concerns.


Qantas categorically rejects claims that its aircraft maintenance engineers are overworked or that there is a risk to safety.

It does not dispute union estimates that numbers are down by up to 35 per cent on the levels it had before the onset of COVID-19.

However, it says it requires fewer engineers than it had pre-COVID because maintenance requirements are much lower, with its 747-fleet retired and international capacity down.

Tony Lucas has been a pilot for 30 years, 27 of those with Qantas, and he has risen through the ranks to become a check and training captain.

He is also president of the Australian and International Pilots Association, a voluntary position he holds alongside his job at Qantas.

He is careful not to overstate safety concerns but acknowledges risks have grown.

"All the disruptions that we're getting, none of them, in and of themselves, are anything different to what we deal with on a day-to-day basis," he told ABC's Four Corners.

"But what we're seeing at the moment, we're seeing them occur multiple times in the day.

"We're seeing them occur across multiple weeks, and ultimately that's where things start to increase in operational complexity.

"Any one of those things on their own isn't a big deal to deal with, but when you start adding them up all together, across multiple flights, that starts to become a concern for safety."

'The Swiss cheese model'

Talk to people in safety-critical roles in aviation, and it's often not long before conversation turns to the 'Swiss cheese model'.

It's a theory of accident causation based on this metaphor, because all human-designed systems are fallible: They have holes in them, like a slice of Swiss cheese.

To avoid accidents, it is necessary to put many slices together — to layer the defences — so there is no possibility that the holes can line up and an accident happen.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has endorsed multiple safety and risk management systems at Qantas, and no-one is suggesting there is currently any systemic risk.

However, some employees Four Corners spoke to worried that, amid outsourcing and loss of experience, and cost-cutting and chaos at airports, the layers of defence had thinned.

They feared the holes were moving closer together.









blame covid…...

Qantas has denied its use of outsourced labour was to blame for the lost baggage chaos and service disruption the airline experienced earlier this year.

The carrier, which retrenched almost 2000 ground crew workers in 2020, lost billions of dollars due to the pandemic which decimated the aviation sector.

As domestic and international travel picked up, Qantas was experiencing cancelled flights, lost baggage, lengthy delays for travellers and low staff morale.

A parliamentary hearing into the Fair Work Amendment bill in Sydney was told by Qantas executives the carrier was affected by the virus as it began to spread within the community.

When asked if disruptions could have been avoided through the direct employment of ground crew, a Qantas executive said outsourced workers didn’t affect performance.

“The concept that we broke baggage handling if you like when we outsourced it is wrong,” he said.

“Not least because it went to companies who do this for all airlines around the world, it’s what they specialise in.

“COVID was circulating in a way it never had before … so we saw sick rates of up to 50 per cent.”

The hearing was told this year’s Easter period was “particularly poor” performance wise, but that was not a result of the external labour that had been brought in.

The executive pointed to the same travel period two years earlier in 2020, where baggage handling had been fully outsourced.

“We did not have issues meeting demand and living up to the standards that people expect from Qantas,” he said.