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Pilots say airlines providing no support

Australian pilots have lashed out at the major airlines and the federal government, saying they have received a lack of financial support during the coronavirus pandemic. In a submission to a Senate inquiry into Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) pointed the finger at the federal government, claiming…

Australian pilots have lashed out at the major airlines and the federal government, saying they have received a lack of financial support during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) pointed the finger at the federal government, claiming funding had been “insufficient” and “not fit for purpose”.

The union has also slammed the two major airlines for providing little to no support for aviation workers during the health crisis.

The aviation and travel industries have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic, with both Qantas and Virgin Australia forced to halt the majority of flight services for the best part of 2020.

“Australia is one of the few nations that has not provided an aviation-specific support package for workers,” AIPA said in its submission.

“This is compounded by both Qantas and Virgin making no contribution to stood-down pilots who are reliant entirely on JobKeeper or drawing down their accrued employment entitlements such as annual and long-service leave.”

The association, which represents more than 2300 Qantas pilots, said other major international airlines are paying stood-down pilots a full or partial salary while the industry remains grounded.

AIPA said a majority of pilots would probably be forced to leave the industry without additional financial help beyond the tapering of JobKeeper in March.

Qantas previously announced it would cull more than 8500 jobs from its workforce, while the pandemic woes caused Virgin Australia to enter into voluntary administration and forced the company to sack more than 3000 workers.

About 220 out of the 8500 redundancies at Qantas have been pilot positions.

“Unfortunately, the majority of our pilots, cabin crew and other employees across the business remain stood down due to the impact of COVID-19 and government border restrictions,” a Qantas spokesman said.

“We are providing support to affected employees in a variety of ways including help finding temporary secondary employment and access to financial counselling.”

AIPA in its submission said aviation assistance packages from the federal government equalling to $750 million were primarily for fuel excise waivers, air services, and domestic and regional security charges — rather than workforce assistance measures.

“Ongoing international travel restrictions and domestic border closures have disproportionately

impacted aviation compared to other industries, many of which have reopened and resumed trading,” AIPA said.

“While welcome, the benefits of this package are only applicable while aircraft are still flying, which is increasingly not the case amid ongoing domestic border closures, restrictions on non-essential travel and international border closures until at least 2021.”

At Qantas’s annual general meeting, chief executive Alan Joyce said persistent domestic border closures had resulted in flight volumes below 30 per cent capacity, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The airline’s revenue in the fourth quarter of the 2020 financial year fell by $4 billion due to the grounding of both domestic and international travel.

“We’re acutely aware of the impact this crisis has had on 30,000 individuals across the group,” Mr Joyce said.

“Most are stood down with no clear timeline for when their flying careers with resume. Thousands will lose their job altogether.”

All Qantas staff have been receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy since its implementation in March.

Virgin Australia said AIPA does not represent any of its pilot workforce and is not in a position to comment on the submission made to the Senate committee.

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