Aircrew ready to elevate outstanding allowance fight
Aug 06, 2012
Australian Helicopters base in Horne Island, Queensland.
A key provider of security and emergency air services in Australia’s far north will soon be forced to face arbitration in Fair Work Australia after failing to deal with a longstanding dispute with their workers over unpaid living allowances.
Australian Helicopters, which provide Search and Rescue along with Customs and Border Protection surveillance services from Horn Island in the Torres Strait, have rejected a call by AMWU members to pay a living allowance for substandard accommodation on the company’s base since 2008.
AMWU National Industrial Officer Darren Hanisch said the membership, made up of aircrew personnel, would now seek to have the matter arbitrated by FWA after the company rejected the body’s initial recommendation.
“The senior deputy president of FWA has made a recommendation that the company go away to talk with our delegates about coming up with a satisfactory agreement. Australian Helicopters have snubbed that.
“This has been going on for years and our members have raised it on many occasions. This is quite a clear breach of the agreement by management. There really is no excuse for the company not to pay the allowance.”
According to the collective agreement Australian Helicopters must provide, at a minimum, workers accommodation free from factors that may impede adequate rest, including separate bathroom and toilet facilities. Should they not provide that the company is required to pay workers a “hard lying allowance”.
The company pays such an allowance to its rostered pilots. However they refuse to do the same for aircrew personnel.
Sam Fielder, an AMWU delegate and Australia Helicopter Aircrew member, said it was frustrating that the company didn’t treat the two work groups as equals.
“We spend six months of our lives up here, we spend as much time here as our own home. It’s become frustrating that management just feel that they can say no without providing genuine reasons.
“After raising the issue of the allowance numerous times, we’ve now been forced to take it further.”
Mr Fielder said the members were united in their commitment to see the dispute resolved.
“When we agreed to taking the matter to Fair Work Australia for conciliation, we thought we were being very reasonable, we were prepared to sit down and comprise on the back pay component as FWA recommended. It is incredibly frustrating to see the company ignore FWA and that they are prepared to treat us like this, when we thought an end was in sight. We’re not going to let it go, we’ve invested too much time into it.”
Mr Fielder will soon make an application to FairWork Australia to seek arbitration, on behalf of the Australian Helicopter aircrew workers.