Virgin stands down 800 ground crew as Covid hits flights, JobKeeper blamed

More than 800 Virgin ground crew have been stood down because of the impact of COVID-19 on the travel industry, according to the Transport Workers Union.

Mar 31, 2021, updated Mar 31, 2021
The number of flights in Australia plummeted as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Photo: ABC

The number of flights in Australia plummeted as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Photo: ABC

The Transport Workers’ Union was today claiming the stand-downs were made because of the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy.

It has filed a dispute in the Fair Work Commission and workers have been told they would only be rostered on partially in the coming weeks and many won’t get their minimum hours.

But the union’s claims have been rejected by the airline which has said no one has been fully stood down and that about 170 ground crew were subject to stand down provisions and may not be working their full hours, however most were.

However, there were a significant number across the workforce that were working reduced hours.

In a letter to affected workers Virgin said:

“We give notice of our intention to stand you down from 29 March 2021 to 18 April 2021, unless advised otherwise.

“During the stand down, you remain employed but are not required to attend work for the hours you are stood down, and you will not be paid for those hours. Your service will continue and you will continue to accrue leave entitlements.

“You may elect to convert your stand down period to paid annual leave or long service leave.”

The company said 170 workers were affected and the vast majority would continue to work. It has rejected the claim that it was caused by JobKeeper ending.

“We are working hard to ramp up our flying to enable more hours and roster flexibility across our operational workforce,” the company said.

“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.”

Virgin today would not comment on how many flights have been delayed by Brisbane’s lockdown but it is understood Qantas cancelled 30 flights into and out of Brisbane yesterday and more were likely over the coming days.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said the standing down of Virgin workers is a direct result of the Federal Government’s decision to kill Jobkeeper.

“The Prime Minister’s cheap flights plan turned out to be a cheap trick played on aviation workers. The Federal Government’s decision to cut off Jobkeeper has resulted in Virgin workers being stood down from their jobs. 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,” he said.

A TWU survey of over 900 aviation workers earlier this month showed that the jobs of almost 90 per cent continue to be affected by the pandemic with only 11 per cent back to working in their jobs with normal hours.

The union said one in five workers remain stood down from their jobs and 33 per cent are working reduced hours.


The majority of ground staff affected are currently working close to their full normal hours. None are fully stood down.



On background:

Reports that Virgin Australia has fully stood down its ground crew in the wake of Job Keeper ending today are categorically false.

Two thirds of Virgin Australia’s full time Ground crew are working their full normal hours.

The remaining are at roughly 85 per cent of their normal hours, except for a very small percent who are working reduced hours at their own election.

Rostered hours for these crew have steadily increased since October and Virgin Australia has been in consultation with the workers and their unions for the past six months.



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