Virgin Australia crew vote to strike: Disruptions to Christmas travel

Virgin Australia cabin crew vote in favour of 24-hour strikes that could throw the Christmas of thousands into chaos

  • Cabin crew for Virgin Australia have voted for industrial action 
  • They can call 24-hour stop work strikes over Christmas period 
  • READ MORE: Qantas slammed over footage of rough baggage handlers 

Virgin cabin crew have ‘overwhelmingly’ voted to strike several times in the lead up to the busy Christmas travel period, in a move which could threaten travel for tens of thousands of passengers during the festive season.

More than 98 per cent of Virgin crew who are members of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) have voted for a series of 24-hour stoppages that  threaten to up-end holiday travel.

The industrial action could cause flight delays and cancellations that could have a knock-on effect for the busy period.

The ballot received a 90 per cent participation rate with 98 per cent backing the stoppages.

The result will allow cabin crew to take industrial action under the Fair Work Act provided they give US-owned Virgin Australia a three-day notice period.

Cabin crew for Virgin Australia have voted for 24-hour strikes that could throw Christmas travel plans into chaos

The crew are demanding pay rises and better working conditions and have rejected a $50million offer from the airline with the stop work action a ‘last resort’

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine would require Virgin owners Bain Capital to sit up and take notice at the negotiating table.

‘Protected industrial action is always a last resort, but after three difficult years of wage freezes and punishing rosters to see Virgin roar back to profit, this vote shows that workers have reached the end of their tether,’ he said.

Virgin Australia was bought by Bain Capital in 2020 in a move that saved the airline from collapsing under Covid border closures.

Wealthy entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, who co-founded the airline in 2000, saw his shareholding in the airline drop from 10 per cent to 5 per cent under the deal.

The tycoon is in Sydney this week welcoming his new cruise liner, Virgin Voyages ship Resilient Lady, on its maiden voyage into the Harbour City.

The airline’s co-founder Sir Richard Branson is in Sydney this week welcoming his new cruise liner

The business tycoon still owns a 5 per cent stake in the airline, down from 10 per cent under Bain Capital’s 2020 purchase deal

The move was described as ‘unprecedented’ by FAAA secretary Teri O’Toole, who said crew have ‘had enough of looking after the passengers like they are family and being treated like slaves’.

‘Virgin’s latest pay offer will not lift Cabin crew wages above poverty rates,’ she said.

‘In the last 5 years, cabin crew have received 1.98 per cent pay increase in total. With inflation and a sharp rise in the cost of living they struggle to pay for rent, food, fuel and household bills and school fees.’

In response to the declared strike action, Virgin has offered staff an extra $150 for each day they work over the summer holiday period, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Ms O’Toole compared the ‘bonus’ to a bribe.

‘Dressed up as a Santa bonus, the cynical approach by Virgin is being seen for what it is by Virgin cabin crew,’ she said.

A Virgin spokesperson said the airline had not received notification of any industrial action but would ‘continue to work intensively with unions to resolve this dispute’.

They said that the union had knocked back an offer of a 15 per cent base salary increase worth $50 million over three years, instead demanding a 29 per cent wage increase.

‘It is disappointing the unions have yet to commit to any meaningful concessions to what are a patently excessive set of claim,’ the spokesperson said.

The airline has offered a 15 per cent pay increase but workers are demanding a 29 per cent rise

The union argues that members ‘sacrificed’ to rebuild the airline after it was put in administration in 2020, with Virgin allegedly promising that they would be paid better and have a reasonable work-life balance when the company regained stability.

On top of pay concerns, Ms O’Toole said that Virgin must work to create better rostering practices to prevent work being outsourced and reduce fatigue on shifts.

‘Virgin needs to show they value and fairly remunerate their staff and are willing to address the systemic issues that cause, burnout and exhaustion at work,’ she said.

‘There has been a rise in near miss events due to fatigue, where an accident could cause serious injury.’

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