Sydney & Melbourne Dnata Ground Crew Voting On Strike Action

Ground crew working in Australia for airport services provider Dnata (Dubai National Air Travel Agency) have begun voting over potential industrial action. The crux of the matter is a proposed agreement that their employer wishes to push forward, which would subject workers to pay cuts and longer shifts without overtime pay.

The story so far

Just over a month ago, Simple Flying reported that Dnata workers were planning to apply to Australia’s Fair Work Commission for permission to hold a vote on strike action. The company has a sizeable presence in Australia, and, as such, industrial action by its workers would likely cause significant operational disruption.

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The Fair Work Commission subsequently approved the holding of such a vote, thus further increasing the likelihood of operational disruption through industrial action. With such a strike, employees hope to avoid potentially being subjected to an inferior pay package by Qantas, which outsourced its ground handling operations to Dnata in 2020. TWU National Assistant Secretary Nick McIntosh stated:

“Dnata workers are overworked, exhausted, and understaffed as they battle to plug gaps in working rosters. They reasonably deferred bargaining during the pandemic despite not receiving a cent of JobKeeper, and now want a fair deal for themselves and their families.”

Relations are tense between Dnata and the Australian flag carrier. Photo: Getty Images

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The finer details

With Dnata’s Australian ground handlers in Qantas’s supply chain potentially set to receive an inferior pay package should the agreement be passed, the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia stepped in. However, in a statement published today, the group stated “recent talks with Dnata failed to reach agreement. “It added:

“The company still refuses to improve wages and conditions, increase part-time minimum hours, or withdraw its attempt to scale back overtime pay.”

As seen in the comment above, the proposed industrial action concerns more than just workers’ pay. Indeed, the proposed agreement would reportedly “refuse [part-time workers] the security of more guaranteed hours“as well as setting a higher hours threshold for overtime pay. TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine stated:

“Since Qantas illegally sacked and outsourced this workforce, it’s pushed away its responsibility of directly bargaining with workers, and instead is using its massive commercial power to bully companies like Dnata into ultra low-cost contracts creating a downward spiral of wages and conditions.”

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Five days of voting

The illegal sacking and outsourcing noted by Kaine refers to the fact that, when Qantas outsourced its ground handling operations to Dnata, it sacked 1,700 of its own workers in this capacity. While Dnata mainly rehired these employees, they came back to work on inferior contracts.

As such, relations between Dnata’s workers and the Australian flag carrier, for whom the company provides ground handling for its international flights in Sydney and Melbourne, are already somewhat tense.

While the TWU recognizes that strike action is a last resort, it argues that pushing forward with the agreement would worsen operational disturbances like safety incidents and understaffing. The voting will run from today until Friday.

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