Wednesday 21 September 2011

Cairns Airport back to work


Qantas ground staff and baggage handlers at Cairns airport back to work after strike

Daniel Strudwick
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
© The Cairns Post

In protest: Transport Workers Union Queensland branch negotiator Janine Aitken at the Cairns airport where about 40 baggage handlers and ground staff walked off the job for four hours yesterday. Picture: TOM LEE

Qantas workers at Cairns airport will be back on the job as usual this morning after the Transport Workers Union ruled out further strikes today and tomorrow.

Forty baggage handlers and ground staff in Cairns walked off the job for four hours yesterday as part of a nationwide strike over pay and conditions.

TWU’s Queensland branch negotiator Janine Aitken said 13 flights out of Cairns were affected by the strike, and some Qantas passengers had to wait up to 40 minutes for their bags to be loaded on carousels.

She said the delays highlighted the important work that ground crews and baggage handlers did. "For our members, the strike is about job security and making sure that Qantas is still in the air in another 90 years," Ms Aitken said, referring to the airline’s 90th anniversary, which is this year.

"At this point, they (Qantas) seem hell-bent on offshoring as much as they can – more and more is being sent offshore on a daily basis." Qantas sent a contingency workforce made up of management staff to cover the shortfall of workers in Cairns, but passengers were still held up.

"It’s not much of a disruption to us, because we’re on holidays, so we don’t really have anywhere to be," Brisbane resident Frances Scodellaro said after touching down for an eight-day stay at Palm Cove.

Her family had to wait about 30 minutes for their bags to appear on the carousel, an hour after the strike started at Cairns airport.

Ben Coombs, a passenger on the same flight, would struggle to make a business appointment in Cairns on time, but he didn’t mind the wait.

"I think people understand that these things happen from time to time," he said. "When you travel, you know it’s par for the course that there’ll be delays." TWU bosses scrapped plans for further strikes today and tomorrow, insisting passengers had been "inconvenienced enough".

Union spokesman Mick Pieri said the strikes had sent a "pretty good message" and "it was up to Qantas now".

The union entered talks with Qantas in May over a 36-point log of claims including fairer pay, whistleblower protections and job security. In a flyer handed to passengers yesterday, TWU said the airline had refused all of the demands and "forced us to take industrial action".

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