Qantas flight attendants say the national carrier is trying to force them into pay cuts of up to 50 per cent as they negotiate a new enterprise bargaining agreement.
Textile workers also say negotiations over enterprise bargaining agreements allowing companies to throw out entire agreements are unfair, as staff on low hourly-rates face cuts of up to seven dollars an hour.
Teri O’Toole, from the Flight Attendants Association of Australia appeared with Qantas international cabin crew at a media conference on Thursday.
Flight attendants had been on the frontline during the height of the pandemic and had “volunteered to bring your family home during COVID-19”, she said.
“They put their own lives at risk because right at the beginning there were no vaccinations … they went into hotspots to bring people home,” Ms O’Toole said.
Many had been isolated in Howard Springs isolation camp for “months at a time”.
Qantas flight attendants now face the choice of being terminated, or taking contracts at award wage, for many meaning a pay cut of up to 50 per cent, the ACTU says.
When the union took its new enterprise bargaining agreement to Qantas, it was voted down with 97.4 per cent of workers rejecting the deal.
Following that Qantas applied to terminate the agreement.
The current system, which allows businesses to throw out entire agreements, was unfair, she said.
“We need a government that does not allow business to trash its employees,” Ms O’Toole said.
“These people were paid to stay, to be loyal, to come back to flying so that we would not lose years and years of experience.
“But what we are doing now is having a gun to our head – this is not a negotiation.”
ACTU President Michele O’Neil says Qantas and textile company Tuftmaster Carpets are trying to “use our laws to cut workers wages”.
“This is shocking because these workers have done so much through the course of COVID-19.”
Qantas workers had been “stood down for very long periods of time” and later been asked to “volunteer to rescue” Australians who were stranded because of the pandemic.
Workers at Tuftmasters were already “not highly paid” and some on $25 an hour now faced losing between $2 to $7 an hour.
“We are treated like trash,” said Dijana, a worker from Tuftmaster Carpets, where workers have been told management intends to tear up their EBA.
Dijana, who has been with the company 22 years, said the majority of staff have worked at Tuftmaster Carpets for more than 15 years, and she believes many will now struggle to pay their mortgages and cover living expenses.
“I’m really devastated and I feel like I’m worthless to be honest,” she said.