Virgin Australia has been sold to Bain Capital a day after Qantas said it would cut 6000 jobs. Image by James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS

Tourism and Leisure

Virgin, Qantas workers need extra supports

2020-06-27 17:09:22

Aviation workers are calling for the government to urgently detail targeted supports to keep the sector aloft while guaranteeing jobs.

Virgin Australia has been sold to US equity firm Bain Capital on Friday, a day after Qantas announced 6000 job losses in the fallout from the coronavirus.

Bain says it is determined to return Virgin to offering Australians access to competitive, viable aviation services for the long term.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce has been in discussions with Prime Minister Scott Morrison over further support for the ailing sector.

The Australian Services Union, which represents ground staff, says the government needs to realise the sector is bigger than just Qantas and Virgin.

Assistant national secretary Linda White says workers at smaller airlines like Air New Guinea and Royal Brunei, along with catering company Dnata, are missing out on support despite paying taxes in Australia.

The union wants to see supports tied to accountability measures, such as job guarantees or improving safety.

“With all the job losses and the like, it seems unusual that the government wouldn’t in all of this at least give some request … (to) anyone in the aviation industry that’s subsidised that there’s some commitment to keep jobs,” Ms White told AAP.

“We need something that ensures that it’s not just going to CEOs’ pay, for instance.”

The Transport Workers Union said workers need the certainty of wage subsidies plus extra support.

“The federal government has to move out of the shadows on aviation,” national secretary Michael Kaine said.

He pointed out other countries, including Germany, Hong Kong and the Netherlands, were pumping billions of dollars into aviation.

Ms White said the government should consider taking equity stakes in businesses, something it has emphatically ruled out previously.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Michael McCormack told AAP the government had already offered $1.3 billion to the industry to maintain operations, including reducing fees and subsidising some domestic routes.

He would not comment on what further measures the Qantas boss had discussed.

Mr Joyce doesn’t believe international borders will reopen until late 2021.

Mr Morrison said the big problem was nobody really knew when this would be possible.

“As you look around the world and you see the intensity of the virus escalating, not decelerating, then I think it is not unreasonable for Alan Joyce to form the view that he has,” the prime minister said.

He hoped Australia and New Zealand could come to an agreement on the so-called trans-Tasman travel bubble before then, possibly including other Pacific nations.

But invitations from other countries interested in opening up travel with Australia wouldn’t necessarily be taken up.