Australian ARFF crews have voted to strike. The protected industrial action will take place between 6am and 10am Friday 9 December at all 27 airports with aviation firefighters.
The head of the aviation section of the United Firefighters Union, Wes Garrett, told media, “Protecting the safety of Australia’s air travellers is the No.1 priority of every aviation firefighter. That’s why we are undertaking such significant industrial action. We understand that this will be extremely disruptive for Australia’s air travellers and aviation firefighters sincerely apologise for the inconvenience. This industrial action is about getting the aviation firefighters we need to keep air travellers safe and we hope the travelling public will understand.” He also believes there will be no aircraft moving during those 4 hours.
Earlier this month 93% of Aviation firefighters voted to strike for periods of between 2 and 12 hours. They also passed a vote of no confidence in Airservices Australia
Airservices Australia spokesperson, Dominque Lamb, told ABC News Australia that they expect flights to continue and the government-owned body will do everything they can to minimise risk. Airservices Australia employs all ARFF crews and ATC personnel in Australia, and is responsible for the safety of 11% of the world’s airspace.
ABC understands that it will be up to individual airlines if they choose to fly during the strike.
Virgin Australia told ABC, “The safety of our guests and crew is our first priority. We will continue to liaise with Airservices and other relevant agencies to ensure Virgin Australia flights can operate safely, and with minimal disruption, during the planned strike action.” Qantas declined to comment to ABC. Sydney Airport is urging the Firefighters Union and Airservices Australia to resolve the despute.
The strike will be a day before the start of the Summer/Christmas school holidays in the state of Queensland.
ARFF crews are striking after they claimed Airservices Australian cut the ARFF workforce by 100 in October last year, leading to understaffing putting travellers at risk. Airservices Australia counted that those losses were voluntary redundancies, and some of those will be replaced by new recruits coming through and are confident they are operating safely. Airservices Australia also claim the strike is clearly about pay, with pay negotiations going on for 18 months. The Union is requesting a 15.5% rise over 3 years with Airservices Australia offering 11.5%.