18 September 2020
TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
FRIDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Launch of TWU organising hub for Qantas workers in Cronulla; Job losses in universities; JobKeeper payments to a foreign university based in Australia.
RICHARD OLSON, NSW STATE SECRETARY TWU: We're here today to officially open our office here in the seat of Cook in the Cronulla Sutherland Shire to bring home to the Prime Minister and the aviation industry, the seriousness of this situation that is occurring within our aviation industry. As a lot of people live and work from this area we thought it's important that this launch takes place here today in the Sutherland Shire area to bring home to Alan Joyce, Scott Morrison and the Federal Government of their mismanagement of JobKeeper in particular, where we see hundreds of aviation workers still not being able to claim JobKeeper. They're without a job, they're without any form of payment and support. We were all in this together at the start, but unfortunately the cracks are widening. JobKeeper is wound back and still we have people in the aviation industry from Dnata, Captain Services and other places who still unable to claim JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
They are falling behind the cracks severely. We've asked people to come here and join us here today to have discussions and highlight the plight of transport workers in this area of aviation. You will recall that early in 2020, where a flight came from Wuhan China, we found out about it and HSRs, health and safety representatives on Qantas decided not to board that plane and clean that plane because they were not given the appropriate PPE and they were not given the appropriate cleaning equipment that would be necessary to keep them safe. Up to three health and safety officers on behalf of transport workers were stood down at that time and we still have a person stood down some nine months later. This is a total outrage but this shows the depth in which Qantas is able to go to, to try to hide what exactly occurred on that day in late January of this year.
We've had a pandemic as we know, flights have been grounded for quite some time. We've been stood down. We're now being replaced. There's two and a half thousand people that are currently with Qantas that are now been told that their jobs are on the line, it's going to be outsourced, they will be replaced by a cheaper and less professional outfit. This is un-Australian. We need to make changes and today is the commencement of those changes. We're going to engage with the public as much as what we can and the affected workers in this area to bring home to the Federal Government, to bring home to Alan Joyce that there is no aviation plan here. People are falling through the crack and we cannot afford to wait any longer. It won't be long before planes get in the sky, there is no excuse to continuously hit the aviation industry in the manner in which it has been hit. We need to look after these people as I say again, we're in this together and if we're in this together, then every worker must be looked after and we are not being looked after either by Scott Morrison nor Alan Joyce.
So we need changes to occur, we need JobSeeker for all and we need the Qantas board and Alan Joyce to keep all these workers on and not go through this charade and attempting to get rid of a further two and a half thousand people under the wing. That is totally un-Australian, where we're at today.
Thank you for this, I'd like to introduce you to Tanya Plibersek from our Federal Parliamentary Party. Thank you.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Thanks so much, and it's so great to be here with my friends from the Transport Workers Union today. I always love coming to Cronulla. I spent a lot of time here as a kid and as a teenager and right behind me is where Jean Egan's café used to be, down the road. I used to go to Joe's Milk Bar and get a chocolate-covered heart and 60 cents worth of hot chips. My niece met her husband at Northies. This is a place that is very familiar to me. And because it's very familiar, I know that there are a lot of people who live in the Sutherland Shire who work at the Qantas jet base. Who work for Qantas, who work for Virgin, who work for Jetstar, who work for the old Qantas catering, which is now Dnata. It's a great place to live because if you're working odd hours, it's a very quick run across the Captain Cook Bridge to the airport.
And I've got to say I understand that Scott Morrison might not care what the Labor Party says about supporting the aviation industry with JobKeeper. Scott Morrison might not care about what the Transport Workers Union says about supporting the aviation industry with JobKeeper. But Scott Morrison should care what his constituents say about the jobs they've lost and the income that they've lost during this pandemic.
This is an area that has a lot of aviation workers living in it. Their Prime Minister, their local member Scott Morrison should listen to them about how they are struggling. I've heard about people who have been cut down to two or three hours a week or two or three hours a fortnight work. People who are really struggling to make ends meet, particularly in families where both people work in the airline industry, and that's a lot of families in this area. So the plea today and the campaign that the Transport Workers Union are running is, please Scott Morrison, listen to how this pandemic is affecting people in the transport and aviation sectors, your constituents, the people who live in your community who are really struggling to make ends meet.
My dad worked for Qantas for more than 20 years. I can't tell you how many times I've been to the jet base, how many times when I was a little kid I met people who worked in Qantas catering. And they always had a little treat for me, a little bit of shortbread or something, the decent people who have spent decades working for the same company and what changed for them it's not their job, not the fact that they're Australian taxpayers, not the fact that they live in Scott Morrison's electorate, nothing's changed except for the ownership of their company that they've got no control over. Because of that they've been denied JobKeeper, despite the fact that they have been paying taxes as Australian citizens all their working lives.
It's not fair and the Prime Minister should listen to his constituents when they tell him it's not fair.
OLSON: Thank you Tanya. Thank you. I'd also like to introduce you to Daniel Mookhey from the State Parliamentary Party as well. Thank you.
DANIEL MOOKHEY MLC: Thank you, Richard. I'm Daniel Mookhey. I'm New South Wales Labor's Shadow Minister for Finance and Small Business. I'm here to congratulate all the Qantas workers who are today commencing a neighbour to neighbour campaign to fight for good jobs here in the Shire, good jobs for their families, good jobs for this community. What is clear is that when you destroy good work you hurt communities, like Cronulla. Cronulla's economy can't rebuild unless people have good secure work.
Every worker here should be congratulated for the efforts that they're taking to stand up for that Australian ideal of secure work with high wages. Now can I say, a global pandemic is no excuse to set up a race to the bottom when it comes to labour rights and conditions. It's equally worrying that we saw this week Qantas wanting to initiate a battle between the states about who can get the most corporate welfare for them to keep their jobs in Mascot.
Can I say not a cent of New South Wales taxpayer dollars should be going to any company, unless they're prepared to guarantee the job security of their workforce. The campaign that the TWU has kicked off today, the campaign that the Qantas workers have kicked off today has the full support of the state parliamentary Labor Party. We look forward to joining them as we go about persuading people that the right way to rebuild this economy, the way in which we bring jobs back to New South Wales, is by making sure that people have good stable wages, good stable work. Our economy cannot recover unless working people have decent rights and conditions.
OLSON: Thank you, Daniel. I would just like to introduce you now to three Qantas workers with decades of loyal service to this company and a huge amount experience at both international and domestic airports. First one will be Jim.
JIM METROPOLIS: Hey everyone. My name is Jim Metropolis. Worked for Qantas for 34 years up to two weeks ago. Between myself, my dad, my uncle and my brother, it's close to a hundred years of loyal service to the company. I was on a committee that was part of the redundancies when they were announced by Qantas. At no time was it ever ever mentioned to us that the company would be outsourced, but I've known through the years that Qantas management has always wanted to outsource us. They've always considered us dinosaurs, and I find it quite sickening as to what's happened to this great company that it used to be and I hope Mr. Morrison steps in and helps all my mates behind me that have been left behind and have been left unemployed. And also for the poor people that work for Dnata that aren't allowed to take JobKeeper because, I don't know, some silly rule that they're foreign owned by another company, yet they're Australian taxpayers. Like I said, it makes me sick in the guts as to what's happened to this great company, and I hope there's a change to it very soon, thanks.
OLSON: Thank you so much for that contribution Jim. Our next speaker is called Cole Rainer from Qantas International.
COLE RAINER: Morning everyone. Thanks for the opportunity to speak on behalf of my colleagues today. As I said, I'm at the end of my working career, but I believe that I should do a little bit to help the people who have to stay you know? We've been in the news over the past few days. We've had Premiers clambering over each other to take the Qantas brand to their state. Queensland, Victoria, South of Australia and New South Wales. Gladys is doing her best to maintain the Qantas headquarters in New South Wales. It's imperative that we do as much as we can to hold on to these jobs for these hard-working people. These people work their guts out for this company and it's imperative we do everything within our power to maintain those jobs. It's very sad if we let these go. These people deserve the right to have a job. The hard-working people in all sorts of conditions. In the pouring rain etc. The loading these planes and they deserve better. Well as I'd say to Mr. Morrison, from my perspective I haven't heard you speak about the near two thousand Qantas workers that live in your electorate. The silence is deafening Sir. You as Prime Minister of this country should be addressing this issue to try and save these Qantas worker's jobs, and I implore you to do something about it. Thank you.
OLSON: Thank you Cole. Our next speaker is Don Dickson for Qantas domestic. Thank you Don.
DON DICKSON: Hello everyone. Thank you Richard. First of all, I'd like to say on behalf of everybody here, thank you to - take them off? - thank you to the New South Wales Police Force. Their sensible approach has allowed us to voice our opinions here in a respectable manner so thank you for the New South Wales Police for letting us do that, and all the other people, from Members of Parliament, the TWU and workers from Qantas that have turned up today and I think maybe 20 odd, so we're respectful of the Covid conditions. Okay, we've been probably state-to-state. We went down to Canberra. We had a talk in front of Parliament House and Members of Parliament supported us there so you've heard quite a bit and some would say "Oh we're starting to hear the same old story." Well, it's not the same old story, because when you're replaced you feel like you're left out of the fridge, you're a bit of rotten fruit. So we're also in the Fair Work Commission. We've got a lot of faith in the Commission will listen to both sides, Qantas and our TWU legal team side and the outcome will be fair and just, that's our hope. Unfortunately, we've got little Scotty Morrison there. We can't find him. Now if Scott could like stop being Where's Wally and come out and have a bit of a speech that would be great. We're in front of his office now and the doors are closed and I think sometime in some political speech he said that he was always open - looks like there's no-one there, but maybe he's been replaced and he's in the same position that we are. So we're hopeful that both political leaders from both sides can now come out from the dark corridors and have a bit of a speech on how the Australian workers can be replaced with potentially overseas companies. We're in fear that now that the JobKeeper and all the money that they put towards JobKeeper, at the end of this month will disintegrate, the unemployment rates will go up through the roof - that's our taxpayers money. So Scott, if you're listening or you're awake or you're on holidays, wherever you are, could you please respond in some way back so we can think where's our future going and not only do we stand alone in this, that the word replacement because there's an election coming up in a couple of years do so maybe you'll be replaced. I don't know. So come out of the dark and have a bit of a say, that's all we got. Thank you.
OLSON: Thank you. I'd just like to introduce lastly Mark Buttigieg from the state Labor Party.
MARK BUTTIGIEG MLC: Thanks Richard. Look, I do want to say a few words about this. It's an issue that's very close to my heart for the similar reasons to my colleague Tanya Plibersek. I lived in this area for almost 40 years. My mother and father live down the road in Sylvania. My sister is a flight attendant up here at Cronulla. She still she's on JobKeeper as we speak now. This used to be a great company, a symbol of Australia, the national carrier. They used to treat workers decently and I think the taxpayers of Australia and New South Wales want to know why their Prime Minister is subsidising a company with $800 million in subsidies. Now, let's remember, this is the lion's share of the subsidies that have been given to the aviation industry - 800 million of the 1.3 billion have gone to Qantas. On top of that, we've got two and a half thousand people who are about to be thrown on the scrap heap allegedly, because they have to find a hundred million in job savings. Now if Morrison is handing our taxpayers money for JobKeeper, don't the Australian people expect that a company, a national carrier, would keep those people on? Isn't that the whole point to keep those employment connections going? Now the people you've heard from today, the workers who are about to be thrown on the scrap heap are real people. You've heard the stories. They participate in their local economy, they contribute to the company for 30-40 years, just like my sister and mother have and do and yet the loyalty is not repaid notwithstanding the fact that they're getting taxpayers money to keep those employment connections going. It's absolutely and utterly unacceptable and as Australian citizens, we shouldn't accept it and we should hold this government to account and get them to intervene. If Morrison's going to hand out our taxpayers money to keep an airline afloat, they should do the right thing by their workers and keep those employment bonds solid so that people can participate in the economy, feed their families and put food on the table. It's absolutely unacceptable and we should never, ever stand for it and I congratulate the TWU for the fight. It's only started today. This is just the beginning. They're are good campaigning union and they have the full backing of the State Parliamentary Labor Party along with my colleague, Daniel Mookhey, and the Federal Labor Party with my colleague Tanya Plibersek. So again, I congratulate the TWU. This is only the beginning. We won't be stopping here. Thanks.
OLSON: So I think in summing up for this event, we have seen in the past nine months just in this short period of time throughout 2020, people been stood down as a result of not going onto a plane, to clean a plane which was totally unsafe. We've seen the grounding of the airline industry. We're seeing the standing down of people. We've seen the redundancy that has been made throughout this aviation industry. We have now seen two and a half thousand people having the bid for their own job or take a job with lower pay, terms and conditions, if they can find it and now we have got the Qantas group outsourcing all of its staff behind the scenes trying to get some more money from any state government that will take them. This is all in nine months. There is no aviation plan by this government and that's what is wrong. That's what we need to rectify. ScoMo needs to stand up to the likes of the Qantas board to ensure that these people are being looked after and we'll do everything possible to continue highlighting that over the coming months leading up to the next federal election. Thank you so much, and we're happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Can you tell us about why, where we are today, and why (inaudible)?
OLSON: Look it's very easy obviously for us here to make this determination that this is the right place to be. There are 3-4,000 workers in this electorate, right here within the 10 kilometre radius of the seat of Cook and the surrounding area. Our head office of the TWU is in Minchinbury, probably don't know where that is, but way out west, okay? We want to bring this fight here in the area where it's needed most and that's this area leading from here up to Kingsford Smith Airport. And therefore, as these people as we know they're on the scrapheap, they're on JobKeeper, it's a much more accessible place to be and we're lucky enough to find a place this close to the Prime Minister's office and others. So hopefully they'll meet with us on a regular basis and we put out that invitation.
JOURNALIST: People that work in this industry, for decades, can't imagine it's an easy thing if they find they're without a job and they're just to pick up something?
OLSON: It's going to be very difficult obviously. You have just heard from three people with well over a hundred years' experience in total working at the airport. For them to transition into another field, another profession, will be very difficult for them to pursue. But the question is why should they have to? There are jobs here. There are jobs that need to be done. We need an airline industry operating in this country and these people are ready. They are professional and they want to do the job. Tanya?
JOURNALIST: Is JobKeeper going to the right places?
PLIBERSEK: Well, I think JobKeeper has been absolutely vital to keep many employees attached to their jobs, but we know that there are real problems with JobKeeper as well. We've seen the university sector, excluded we've seen casuals excluded, people in arts, the Dnata workers - there are many areas where we think JobKeeper has been inadequate and the real world consequence of that is jobs are lost. There are thousands of extra jobs lost because this government has denied many Australian workers JobKeeper payments.
JOURNALIST: What did you make of news that New York University Sydney Campus staff there were given JobKeeper, while staff at Australian universities have missed out?
PLIBERSEK: I'm absolutely gobsmacked that this government has decided to give JobKeeper to a foreign university but has denied Australian universities access to JobKeeper. I'm absolutely gobsmacked. We have already lost 10,000 jobs in Australian universities. That's, of course, that's teaching staff, its administrative staff, it's groundskeepers, it's librarians, it's the people working in the cafeteria.10,000 jobs already gone. Another 10,000 jobs expected to go by Christmas and this government has turned its back on those people. I would like Scott Morrison to answer to those families that have lost jobs, why is it that their jobs don't matter? Why is it that these Australian jobs don't matter and yet the government has subsidised this very wealthy foreign university.
JOURNALIST: The Treasurer has said with universities it's like comparing apples with oranges because he says Australian universities have received $18 billion in funding but foreign universities haven't. Is that fair?
PLIBERSEK: It is insane talk. Australian universities receive that funding to teach Australian students. They have actually spent the money on teaching students and research. What's happened now is we are losing thousands of university staff because of a deliberate decision this government has made to exclude universities from receiving JobKeeper. Scott Morrison must answer why he's turned his back on the 10,000 people that lost their jobs and the 10,000 more that are estimated to lose their jobs by Christmas, all the while paying a subsidy to a foreign university. Thanks.