Qantas has fired back at claims aired by the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) over its safety procedures, after another plane was damaged by a baggage vehicle – the second such incident in days.
Footage obtained by the union shows the belt loader wedged under the Boeing 737 aircraft at Darwin Airport on Friday.
The flight, QF581, was supposed to depart for Perth but was cancelled. Qantas apologised and organised transfers to another aircraft later that day.
The TWU has claimed the airline is putting workers at risk by outsourcing 2500 ground workers to pay “lower wages for baggage, ramp and cleaning work”.
In a statement, Qantas fired back at the union, saying they did not have the same level of concern about ground handling aircraft damage incidents before work was outsourced.
A spokesman said the airline had 0.8 aircraft damage events per 1000 flights when work was done in-house compared with 0.4 for outsourced operations.
“Only since the outsourcing is the TWU putting out media releases and calling for full investigations about these kind of incidents and the travelling public deserves to be cynical about that,” a Qantas spokesman said.
“Their behaviour discredits the strong safety culture in Australian aviation by pointing fingers, getting the basic facts wrong and blowing things out of all proportion.”
An investigation into the collision is underway.
Last week, a large gash was punched into a plane by a belt loader at Perth Airport, with the TWU saying the brakes had failed.
The union said it narrowly missed workers, while the driver was briefly trapped but managed to escape injury.
But a Qantas spokesman said an independent review into the baggage loader at Perth Airport ruled out faulty equipment or brake failure.
The union has claimed a number of safety issues have since occurred including pilots given “dangerous and incorrect” baggage weight information, understaffing of ground operations, and a child’s electric wheelchair getting smashed at Sydney Airport after it was incorrectly placed on a baggage belt.
“Qantas outsourced all of its 2500 ground workers this year so it could pay lower wages for baggage, ramp and cleaning work,” the TWU said in a statement.
“Last week Qantas announced that it will cut more jobs and impose a 2-year wage freeze on workers, despite receiving $2 billion in federal public funding.
“The TWU has been calling for conditions to be attached to all federal and state funding for Qantas, including a halt to outsourcing of jobs, a cap on executive salaries and a ban on bonuses.
The union is calling for an investigation to be undertaken and has contacted the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and WorkSafe WA.
TWU SA/NT branch secretary Ian Smith said the “serious” incident at Darwin Airport was not isolated and had the potential to cause injuries to workers around the aircraft and on-board passengers.
“Serious questions must be asked of the Qantas board and the federal government, which have stood by and allowed standards to get dragged down,” he said.
“The public has pumped $2 billion into Qantas since the pandemic hit and all we have to show for it is outsourced workers and safety breaches.
“Both the Qantas board and the federal government must start holding senior Qantas management to account.”
The airline responded to TWU criticism around the Perth incident by saying external ground handlers were no less safe and in some cases provided better safety performance than work done in-house.