Workers ‘offered pants’ in pay stoush

AWU RAAF aircraft
An eight month pay stoush came to blows after an aviation employee offered workers an extra pair of pants, instead of a payrise in-line with inflation. Picture: Supplied

RAAF aircraft engineers fighting for a pay increase to bring them up to industry averages say they have instead been offered an extra pair of pants.

Union officials say Airbus Asia Pacific – which contracts the engineers to the Richmond RAAF base in outer Sydney – has been stonewalling since negotiations began eight months ago.

The current proposed agreement for the 100 engineers, who are specially trained at maintaining C-130J-30 Hercules airlifters, promises to increase their clothing allowance from three pairs of trousers or shorts to four, plus a $20 increase (to $180) in the amount they can reimburse on self-purchased steel capped safety boots.

The engineers specialise at maintaining C-130J-30 Hercules airlifters. Picture: Christina Assi/ AFP
The engineers specialise at maintaining C-130J-30 Hercules airlifters. Picture: Christina Assi/ AFP

AWU NSW Branch Secretary Tony Callinan said the offer was “laughable”.

“The CEO of Airbus (Guillaume Faury) pockets about $5.05m annually and King Gee work pants go for $55 at Lowes, that’s 100,000 pairs of pants,” he said.

“I’ve never seen a company spend eight months stonewalling in negotiations and the only concession they make is a pair of pants.”

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Instead of a pay rise, workers were another pair of pants, and a $20 increase to their work boot reimbursement policy.

Mr Callinan said it was “inappropriate” for personal protective clothing and equipment to be used to offset a “wage outcome during enterprise agreement negotiations”.

“Every reputable employer in the country provides those to their employees, as required by the Work Health and Safety Act,” he said.

“It’s more about respecting the work that these people do. They’re highly trained and their colleagues in other states get paid better wages and conditions.

“If something goes wrong in mid-air, there are significant consequences and these guys are accountable for the work they do.”

AWU RAAF aircraft
Engineers at Richmond RAAF base have stopped work eight times during their eight month negotiation process. Picture: Supplied

On Thursday, Richmond RAAF base engineers held a stop-work protest. Previous stoppages have resulted in engineers being locked out of their workplace once industrial action concluded, with delegates and members frustrated that key decision makers weren’t present.

“Inflation is at 7 per cent. We’ve seen cost-of-living skyrocket, we’ve seen interest rates go through the roof with another rise to 3.85 per cent this week,” Mr Callinan said.

“A company is kidding themselves if they think workers will accept 2.5 per cent. It’s just not enough.”

An Airbus Asia Pacific spokesperson confirmed negotiations are ongoing,

“We are engaged in discussions with our employees in Richmond, and are working with them in an effort to achieve a resolution that is positive and fair,” they said.