Alarming leaked images show some Sydney airport workers are struggling to make ends meet, forced to sleep beside baggage carousels because they can't afford to go home between shifts, the union claims.
Irregular, casual work with early morning and late evening split shifts are forcing employees below the poverty line and leaving them no other option but to secretly sleep rough at the airport, the ABC's 7.30 program revealed.
Vision has surfaced appearing to show makeshift airport camps underneath passenger terminals, and a worker wearing a high-vis uniform sleeping in a quiet part of the airport.
“Workers are struggling on slave wages and sleeping on bed rolls because they have to spend long days at work to support their families," Transport Workers’ Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon said.
"They are terrified of raising concerns because the bosses are standing over them warning them against complaints.
“This is being allowed to happen because airports and airlines are outsourcing work to low cost companies and not giving a damn about the workers in their supply chains that it affects.”
Mr Sheldon said airport and airlines were responsible for reviewing the companies that perform the work on their behalf.
"Airlines and airports earn billion-dollar profits and should ensure all contractors operating on their behalf are paying and treating their workers fairly."
He claimed workers earned as little as $1500 a month and many contractors can’t afford the fuel or tolls to get to work, so they are forced to sleep at the airport.
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A petition has been created by the Transport Workers' Union to pressure airports and airlines to become more accountable for the living conditions, and "acceptable" wages of aviation workers.
Australian ground handling contractor Aerocare is contracted to major Australian airlines to provide ground support at Sydney airport, by loading bags, passengers, and performing safety checks.
The company, which reportedly posted a $13 million profit last year, denied the allegations of poor treatment.
Aerocare said in a statement it was "shocked and disappointed by the allegations and images relating to the company’s operations" which surfaced in the media this week."
The company claimed it invested millions to improve the "quality" of its rostering to maximise the duration of shifts. It said the company's goal of securing more contracts would enable Aerocare to offer employees longer shifts and further viable full time positions.
"We have a 22 year track record of leading our industry in matters concerning employee and broader passenger safety and would never condone unethical or unsafe activity of the type alleged," the statement said.
Aerocare said an investigation was underway of all assertions and representations, and once complete an update would be provided.
Newsbreak – March 21