Virgin Australia workers are being pressured into accepting an “effective wage cut” as the airline seeks to push through an unendorsed Enterprise Bargaining Agreement amid a communications leak that raises serious questions about senior management’s conduct as negotiations were taking place.
A vote, which opens on Thursday, comes as Microsoft Teams messages between Virgin managers emerged revealing the threats to take unlawful adverse action against the Australian Services Union simply for negotiating to secure a better deal for the airline’s workers.
Messages also reveal that managers routinely removed ASU fliers updating members on EBA negotiations from airport crew rooms and a senior manager offered to “shake the money tree” to pay for cupcakes to entice staff to vote for its own proposed agreement.
One message reads: “I’m seriously tempted to start taking all of the ASU privileges out of the whole EA”.
The message, which could constitute a threat of adverse action against the union in breach of the freedom of association provisions of the Fair Work Act, received two thumbs up in response.
ASU Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske said the union was urging affected Virgin workers to vote ‘No’ to the Virgin agreement, which offers pay increases of just 3.5%, well belowthe 7% rate of inflation.
“If Virgin’s proposed deal is so good, why is management so afraid of the ASU sharing its views with members that they would conspire to remove fliers containing important updates on the negotiations?” said Ms Gaske.
“The fact is this is not a good deal – it’s a dud deal. A pay offer of just 3.5% when inflation has soared 7% over the 12 months to March is not a wage rise, it’s an effective wage cut.
“Let’s not forget that these employees accepted wage freezes during the pandemic and stood by the airline during a time of uncertainty.
“Now, Virgin’s financial position is so profitable that its private equity owners are reportedly considering a public float so there can be no doubt that this company can afford to pay workers fairly.
“As these leaked messages show, Virgin is lucky enough to have a ‘money tree’ that management are willing to shake to pay for cupcakes that they think will convince workers to accept an unacceptable deal but not for fair and reasonable pay and conditions.
“Virgin’s smoke and mirrors campaign has been exposed and workers need to vote ‘No’ to this deal.”
Under the proposed changes, Virgin Australia also plans to cut staff leave entitlements and days in lieu and implement new roster arrangements that demand longer hours at the same pay.
The commencement of voting on Thursday comes the day before the Fair Work Commission releases its Annual Wage Review decision, which should deliver much-needed pay rises for an estimated 2.67 million minimum and low paid workers.
Unions have called for the National Minimum Wage and Award Wages to rise by 7% from 1 July 2023 – in line with inflation – to provide urgent cost-of-living relief for Australian workers who need it most.
“All Australian workers deserve to be paid fair and reasonable salaries that keep track with the cost of living and Virgin staff are no different,” Ms Gaske said.
“The Australian Services Union, which does not endorse the airline’s proposed EBA, will continue to push on behalf of Virgin workers for fairer pay and conditions."