Workers have convened a mass virtual rally at the office of Pauline Hanson in Brisbane today, asking that more is done to protect Australia’s aviation workforce and industry.
The Keep Australia Flying rally led by the Australian Services Union sought to extend JobKeeper to workers like those at Dnata and Air Niugini who have been denied pay due to the ownership structure of their employer.
The vote on the proposed expansion of the scheme will take place in the Senate next week and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation are seen as critical to the vote’s success.
The protest was adapted to a world of social distancing, where only 20 people could be at Ms Hanson’s office in person, with thousands of others attending the broadcast rally via Zoom which was cast onto a big screen outside Ms Hanson’s office.
Assistant National Secretary of the Australian Services Union Linda White said it had been a tough year for the entire aviation industry but especially for workers who have been excluded from JobKeeper.
“We’ve faced challenges never seen before and we’ve stood together throughout the crisis, working hard to protect every job for every member across the country,” Ms White said.
“JobKeeper was a huge win but it also has holes in it and the massive underspend should be seen as an opportunity to mend the safety net during this unprecedented crisis so people don’t fall through.
“The 6,000 workers at Dnata and Air Niugini should not be excluded because of their employers’ ownership structure – they are still Australians in desperate need of assistance like everyone else.
“Obviously a massive rally was tough to organise with social distancing but it is also a critical part of Australia’s democratic society. This was one of Australia’s first ‘virtual rallies’ and it was the biggest ever held in Australia. We were excited to lead it.”
Dnata employees have been stood down without pay since March and Ms White said many were struggling to put food on the table for their families.
“It doesn’t need to be this way. Clearly there are now unspent resources that the Government can use to make sure more workers are supported through unprecedented economic turmoil.”
Dnata has operated in Australia since 2007 and employs about 6000 staff at nine Australian airports, including staff who worked for Qantas for decades before the business was sold 2 years ago.
The union’s call for urgent government intervention also extends to the need to keep Virgin flying with hundreds of Virgin staff expected to attend the rally.
“COVID-19 may make us be physically distant, but that won’t stop us standing up together to demand our politicians support Australian aviation workers.”