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Aviation, Employment Relations

Engineers told to trade boots for back pay

AWU 2 mins read

Aircraft engineers who were recently asked to accept pants over a pay rise have now been asked to give up their work boots.

The aircraft engineers are locked in a bitter dispute with their employer over pay and conditions and made headlines in May when they were asked to trade their pay rise for a pair of pants.

Now the company wants to take away their boots in exchange for back pay.

The highly qualified aircraft engineers maintain the Australian’s Army’s crucial fleet of C-130 Hercules heavy lift aircraft and are employed by Airbus Australia Pacific.

AWU NSW Branch Secretary Tony Callinan says he’s gobsmacked by the company’s attempts to use clothing as a bargaining chip.

“I’ve never seen a company so fixated on employee’s clothing, it’s a bit weird if you ask me,” AWU NSW Branch Secretary Tony Callinan.  

“Usually in negotiations we talk about annual pay rises, overtime arrangements and the like, I’ve never seen a company so obsessed with clothing, offering pants one minute, asking workers to give up boots the next,” says Tony Callinan.

The 100 engineers based at the Richmond RAAF base were offered a substandard deal which offered them a pitiful 7.5% over 3 years (2.8%, 2.35%, 2.35%). Engineers unanimously voted against the deal in December last year.

The company marginally upped their offer but that was also rejected by the workforce in a vote in June of this year.

Since the second formal vote, the company has offered to up its pay offer if engineers give up their boots and first aid allowance.

The first aid allowance gives those with recognised qualifications in first aid a weekly payment so they can act as first responders on site if there is a workplace emergency.

Tony Callinan says he’s shocked the company would seek to make cost savings at the expense of workplace safety.

“Asking workers to trade away an entitlement that encourages a positive safety culture shows the type of disregard Airbus Australia Pacific have for their workforce,” says Mr Callinan.

In industrial disputes back pay is usually paid automatically if a bargaining period has dragged on beyond the limits of a previous agreement. Asking workers to give up their boots or other entitlements in order to receive it is akin to asking them to pay for the company dragging its heels during negotiations. 

Workers at the RAAF base have been forced to resort to limited industrial action, and in response Airbus has locked the workers out as the dispute has escalated.

Airbus Engineers at other RAAF bases in Brisbane, Oakey, Townsville, Darwin, and Holsworthy (Sydney) are paid more than those at Richmond.

The C-130 Hercules military aircraft are the workhorse of the Australian military and transport troops and cargo all over the world.

Contact: Tony Callinan 0405 285 547

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