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News headings from LabourStart

Skywest Pilots Keep Travel Benefits at Virgin

« Back to News Articles Skywest Pilots Keep Travel Benefits at Virgin

TWU members at Virgin Australia Regional Airlines have proved that workers can beat even the biggest multi-national companies if they stick together.

TWU member pilots at Skywest had fought long and hard for the entitlements in their enterprise agreement, but that all came under threat when known union-busters Virgin Australia took over Skywest.

The pilots, through the TWU and their association the Skywest Airline Pilots’ Association, had developed a good working relationship with Skywest management over the years.

Because of their sky high union membership and solidarity, the pilots had won some important entitlements, including business class travel when required by Skywest to fly internationally for training and other purposes – conditions they were entitled to keep even after Virgin’s takeover.

But, almost as soon as the takeover was completed, Virgin informed the pilots that they would no longer be able to access all of their entitlements. This was a clear breach of the pilots’ rights under their enterprise agreement.

“The TWU made it clear to Virgin that there was no reason for the pilots to go along with their directive,” said Slater & Gordon lawyer, Simon Millman.

“If Virgin didn’t honour the enterprise agreement, we were always going to defend the rights of TWU members in the Fair Work Commission.”

In response, Virgin lapsed back into their old anti-union habits.

Trying to bully the pilots into accepting lower conditions, Virgin informed its entire staff that no employee would have access to discount travel rates until the pilots gave up their entitlements.

“Virgin tried to turn worker against worker so they could cut conditions and cut costs,” said Mr Millman.

“When that didn’t work, Virgin denied the pilots’ access to staff discount travel rates until they gave up their entitlements.”

Not having a bar of it, the TWU and SALPA Chairman Paolo Casali engaged the TWU lawyers and took Virgin to the Fair Work Commission.

“We argued that Virgin had discriminated against the pilots and taken adverse action against them in breach of the Fair Work Act,” said Mr Millman.

“In the end, Virgin backed down and the pilots negotiated to keep their entitlements AND get access to the same discount travel rates as all other Virgin employees.

“Paolo and the TWU members at Skywest stuck together and they beat a multi-national corporation like Virgin. It’s a great victory for them and a great victory for the TWU.”

Mr Millman encouraged all TWU members to seek advice if they have a problem in the workplace.

“If your boss tries to deny you your entitlements, let your delegate or organiser know straight away,” said Mr Millman. “Slater & Gordon is always standing by to fight for the TWU and its members.”

For further information, TWUWA members should contact the Union office on 1800 657 477 for a referral to Slater & Gordon.

As a financial TWU WA member your initial consultation is free and you receive a reduced rate for the rest of your legal representation.