Qantas workers who usually work on international routes will receive a $500-a-week wage payment well after the JobKeeper scheme ends, under the federal government’s controversial $1.2 billion aviation tourism support scheme.
More than 7000 cabin crew, pilots, engineers and technicians are among those who will receive the payment until October.
The funding is part of a broader support package that also includes financial assistance to provide ongoing training to staff so they are ready to fly when international borders reopen.
Virgin Australia will also receive direct funding from the federal government, but will use it for training and to prepare for more flights.
“The government’s support will help us … [get] more team members back into training and back to work faster than we would have been able to, and getting our international operations ready over the coming months,” a Virgin spokesperson said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Nine Radio on Friday that the funding to airlines would ensure there were planes ready to go once international borders reopened.
“It’s a fact of the matter that we need to maintain a sovereign international aviation capability here in Australia, and what we’ve announced is a package that will support 8500 jobs at Qantas and Virgin in our international aviation space,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“That money will go to maintaining planes, maintaining the skills of those workers, and Qantas and Virgin have decided to provide them with some additional wage support.”
The funding falls under the federal Tourism Aviation Network Support program announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week – a package that also includes 800,000 half-price airline tickets, and discount loans for businesses.
Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine said it was disappointing details of the payments to Qantas were revealed only when the company held a public meeting, and called for an extension of the scheme.
“We welcome wage supports for aviation workers who through no fault of their own cannot return to their jobs because of pandemic restrictions, but it is a disgrace that this wage support will help some workers while leaving others unable to pay their bills and support their families,” Mr Kaine said.
“We want to know how the federal government expects domestic workers at Qantas, Virgin and the many aviation service operators to survive without a wage support.”
The Tourism Aviation Network Support program’s half-price flights have already attracted controversy after several regions complained they were left off the map.
The federal government has defended the scheme, saying it is based on AusTrade advice and targeted at areas particularly reliant on international tourism.
Victoria and NSW have just two routes between them, while four Tasmanian air routes have been underwritten.