Australian Labour Party Senator speaks against attacks on jobs and conditions across the Australian aviation industry

August 27, 2020

Qantas and Virgin Australia, Australia’s two major airlines recently announced that they were planning to implement dramatic job cuts. Both airlines are intending to restructure operations to slash costs amid continuing turmoil in the global aviation industry.

From the outset, the ITF affiliated unions’ response to the ongoing crisis has been to develop socially responsible alternatives based on tripartite social dialogue. They are also appealing and lobbying to the government to make it provide proper support to the industry to protect jobs and the national aviation infrastructure. They believe that further government support is imperative and urge the federal government to meet aviation businesses, airports and workers immediately to work out a plan of action to protect the aviation industry from destruction.

On 25 August 2020, Tony Sheldon, Australian Labour Party Senator for New South Wales and former National Secretary of ITF affiliate TWU, gave a passionate speech to the Australian Senate emphasising that the Australian aviation industry needs a national plan urgently. He pointed out that letting Qantas take a vast amount of taxpayers’ money without any obligation to its workforce, or the country, is clearly against the national interest.

Here are a few highlights from his speech:

The grounding of flights was the right call, but it was not a market failure; it was a government decision. When they made that decision, they appear to have made one other: to abandon the industry.

Virgin, a full-service airline, was forced to practically bleed out while the government refused to take an equity stake…

Then there is the story of the 6,000 workers at dnata, a company that the government retrospectively excluded from the JobKeeper support program. Workers—many of whom worked for Qantas—who never chose who ultimately owned their company and who have paid a lifetime of tax, were cruelly abandoned by a government that could have supported them with the stroke of a pen.

And now there’s Qantas. (…) Letting Qantas take millions, and hundreds of millions, of dollars in taxpayers’ money without any obligation to its workforce, or to the country, is an act of sabotage of the national interest. Today’s announcement—the pending outsourcing, sacking and replacement of 2,400 ground, baggage and cleaning jobs—is an evil act of corporate bastardry.


The government shut down the skies. It has the responsibility to work with all the shareholders and all the stakeholders in aviation to build a national plan for all Australians, not just a privileged few.

You can read Senator Sheldon’s speech from here>>

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Tony Sheldon was the National Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia (TWU) from 2006 to 2019. In 2014, he was elected the Chairperson of the ITF’s Road Transport Section. In this role, he led the Section to build a safe and fair transport industry where workers have and use their collective power guided by clear, strong principles. He also served the international trade union movement as a member of the ITF’s Executive Board.

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