More than 100 Tasmanian aviation workers at Hobart and Launceston airports have been stood down in recent weeks because of massive flight cancellations.
This flight drought is a direct result of mainland lockdowns, which have been necessary because of breakouts in hotel quarantine and the Morrison government’s failure to secure vaccines.
The fact is, stood down Tasmanian workers are every bit as affected as employees in lockdown areas, but they have no access to the same support.
For reasons I can’t understand, and which haven’t been explained, the Morrison government’s modest aviation support package locks out workers who are not directly employed by airlines.
This means every one of the more than 100 aviation workers across Tasmania who have been stood down receive nothing, because they are employed by labour hire firm Swissport, which contracts their services to the airlines.
So if you steer or serve drinks on a plane and are stood down you receive $750 a week, but if you clean an airport, handle baggage, or process tickets and are stood down, you receive nothing.
It makes no sense. Every aviation worker who is stood down as a result of lockdowns should be eligible for aviation support.
More than 20 Swissport workers have contacted me directly, pleading to make themselves heard.
They are desperate, and some say they will be forced to leave jobs they love because they can’t survive without income.
My colleague Julie Collins and I have raised the issue in parliament numerous times and we’ve pleaded with the Government to fix the problem.
If workers do leave the industry to find other jobs, the loss of these experienced ground crew will be a real problem for when lockdowns end and flights resume.
Swissport is worried. It tells me it takes 6 months to recruit, train and accredit airport ground crew.
It has bluntly warned there will be grounded flights in Tasmania over our peak summer season if it has to replace lost workers.
Swissport isn’t alone. Other aviation support companies are also asking the government to see reason.
Shannon Wells, who owns Par Avion in Tasmania, has seen his tourism charter business plummet and he isn’t eligible for support either.
Last year, companies that could demonstrate a drop in income of 30 per cent due to the pandemic received JobKeeper as a wage subsidy.
JobKeeper kept businesses afloat and workers off unemployment lines.
This year, there is nothing, despite conditions for some businesses being worse.
Incredibly, at least $13 billion of JobKeeper went to businesses that told the government they expected their earnings to drop, but they actually never did.
Those companies, including some whose profits actually increased - have been told they can keep the money.
Simple maths tells us there is now $13 billion less that is available for businesses and workers that really need it.
It is time for Mr Morrison to show some leadership, and extend aviation support to every aviation worker and business that needs it.
He can’t say it costs too much when he’s happy to hand $13 billion to those who didn’t need it.
This aviation support package fiasco is Scott Morrison’s mess, more than 100 Tasmanian workers are suffering because of his failures, and he needs to fix it.