A 24-hour strike by workers who refuel planes for Qantas and other international airlines at Melbourne airport is causing minimal disruption to flights.
The industrial action from 4 a.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday is a push for better wages and conditions for workers employed by Rivet Group, the Transport Workers Union said.
The company must respond to reasonable requests from workers for recognition and sustainable pay and conditions to avoid disruption to flights from Melbourne, said the union’s Victorian branch assistant secretary Mem Suleyman.
“For a year, Rivet refuelers have tried to reach a fair deal, but instead have been faced with base pay freezes that affect their wages now and in the future,” Suleyman said.
“In the current cost of living crisis, it is unacceptable to expect workers to take on additional responsibilities and work harder, faster and longer to make ends meet.”
The workers were in one of the most dangerous jobs at the airport, but they were being pushed to their limits as pay and conditions failed to attract more people to share the load, Suleyman said.
Industrial action was the only option left to bring the company to a fair and sustainable deal, he said.
Rivet Aviation was “extremely disappointed” that it was unable to reach a conclusion from the discussions and understood that this would have a detrimental impact on travelers, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
However, it was unable to accept the claims put forward by the union and continue to operate viably, it said.
“Our business has battled COVID and is struggling to be profitable today, let alone implement the immediate 12 percent increase in wages that is being demanded,” Rivet said in the statement.
“We are one of the highest paying companies in this space in terms of salaries, and like most companies, we are beholden to existing contracts with our clients, who are large multinational companies.”
The union’s decision to go on strike would only bankrupt the business and put employees out of work, the company said.
The strike was expected to affect some aircraft refueling operations at Melbourne airport, an airport spokesman said.
However, most flights would operate as scheduled, and passengers were encouraged to go to the airport as normal unless contacted by their airline.
There was minimal impact to airport operations around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Rivet services all major cargo and passenger airlines including Qantas, DHL, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Fiji Airways and Qatar Airways.
Qantas has a contract with ExxonMobil to provide fuel for flights from Melbourne. The oil and gas company then subcontracts Rivet to refuel planes.
Qantas did not expect any material impact on its flights on Wednesday after its operations team implemented alternative solutions, a spokeswoman said.
Alternative solutions included flying a spare A380 from Sydney to Melbourne with the maximum amount of fuel it could carry and using it to fill other aircraft.
The airline was also carrying extra fuel on flights to Melbourne to minimize the refueling required and to make the most of remaining refueling capacity, even by using other suppliers.
“We have also worked closely with Melbourne Airport and other industry partners to minimize any impact on customers,” the spokeswoman said.