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Strike by plane refuellers causes minimal turbulence

A 24-hour strike by workers who refuel Qantas and other international airline planes at Melbourne Airport is causing minimal disruption to flights.

The industrial action from 4am on Wednesday to 4am on Thursday is a push for better pay and conditions for the workers employed by the Rivet Group, the Transport Workers' Union said.

The company should respond to workers' reasonable requests for recognition and sustainable pay and conditions to avoid disruptions to flights out of Melbourne, the union's Victorian assistant branch secretary Mem Suleyman said.

"For a year, Rivet refuellers have tried to reach a fair agreement but have instead been faced with base wage freezes which impact their pay now and long into the future," Mr Suleyman said.

"In the current cost-of-living crisis it is unacceptable to expect workers to pick up extra responsibilities and work harder, faster and longer to make ends meet."

The workers were in one of the most dangerous jobs in the airport, yet they were being pushed to the limits while pay and conditions failed to attract more people to share the load, Mr Suleyman said.

Industrial action was the only option left to bring the company to a fair and sustainable agreement, he said.

Rivet Aviation said it was "extremely disappointed" it could not reach a conclusion to discussions and the company understood that would have a detrimental impact on travellers.

However, it could not agree to claims put forward by the union and continue to operate viably, it said.

"Our business has battled through COVID and struggles to be profitable today, let alone implementing the immediate 12 per cent increase in wages being demanded," Rivet said.

"We are one of the highest-paying companies in this space in terms of salaries and like most companies we are beholden to existing contracts with our customers who are large multi-national businesses."

The union's decision to strike would only ultimately cause the business to fail and put employees out of a job, the company said.

The strike was expected to affect some aircraft refuelling operations at Melbourne Airport, an airport spokesman said.

However, most flights would operate as scheduled and passengers were encouraged to go to the airport as normal unless contacted by their airline.

Rivet services major freight and passenger airlines including Qantas, DHL, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Fiji Airways and Qatar Airways.

"We have also worked closely with Melbourne Airport and other industry partners to minimise any impact on customers," a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Singapore Airlines also reported no disruptions to any of its flights to or from Melbourne, saying it made alternate arrangements.