Dnata ground handlers to move ahead with protected action vote

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Airports and airlines could soon face more disruption after ground services workers from third-party provider Dnata received approval from the Fair Work Commission to vote on industrial action.

An application for the protected ballot action on whether the workers have the right to take industrial action was put forward by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) last month.

Dnata ground crew, some of whom are notably contracted to Qantas, have been involved in an ongoing dispute with company management over pay and conditions.

The outcome of the protected action ballot will determine whether the ground crew undertakes future industrial action, including strikes. If the ballot is successful, workers will be provided with protections under the Fair Work Act to take industrial action.

It comes as the industry continues to face disruption, with flight delays and cancellations ballooning, hours-long queues in airports, and increasing cases of lost or delayed baggage.

The push for industrial action comes following a decision by Dnata management to pursue a new enterprise agreement that the TWU say “pushes workers into below the legal award conditions” and “gives pay cuts to experienced workers.”

According to the TWU, the company has denied workers’ calls to provide increased part-time hours or take on more employees in permanent positions.

As a result, the workers that make up the ground crews are becoming “chronically over-worked” with no avenues for easing pressure being provided by Dnata management.

The condemnation of the offered enterprise agreements has been followed by a stark warning that the chaos seen at airports around Australia over recent months will continue if working conditions and employment agreements do not improve.

Without the provision of increased employment rights the promise of job security experienced workers will lack the incentives to return to the industry following the Covid-19 pandemic.

National Assistant Secretary of the TWU, Nick McIntosh said that industrial action was a last resort, but employees shouldn’t be forced to accept the meagre agreement.

“Dnata workers are overworked, exhausted and understaffed as they battle to plug gaps in working rosters. They reasonably deferred bargaining during the pandemic despite not receiving a cent of JobKeeper, and now just want a fair deal for themselves and their families”.

“Workers are sending Dnata and its purse-string controllers at Qantas a clear message: settle a fair deal that locks in secure jobs with strong conditions, or workers may be forced to take further action,” McIntosh said.

The union noted that many of Dnata’s experienced workers have stood by the company throughout pandemic stand-downs, despite being ineligible for Jobkeeper, due to the company being overseas-based.

It comes after Dnata employees recently quashed a “costly plan” for the company to employ workers from the Philippines while refusing to increase hours for part-time workers or introduce more permanent full-time positions, the Union said.

It also comes after a concerning spike in safety incidents at airports, such as a belt loader that crashed into a parked aircraft, or a plane that took off with locking pins left in its landing gear.

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