Threat of disruption as plane refuellers strike in Melbourne

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A 24-hour strike by workers who refuel Qantas and other international airline planes at Melbourne Airport is threatening to disrupt flights.

The industrial action from 4am on Wednesday to 4am on Thursday was a push for better pay and conditions for the workers employed by the Rivet Group, The Transport Workers’ Union said.

The company should respond to workers’ reasonable requests for recognition and sustainable pay and conditions to avoid disruptions to flights out of Melbourne, the union’s Victorian assistant branch secretary Mem Suleyman said.

“For a year, Rivet refuellers have tried to reach a fair agreement but have instead been faced with base wage freezes which impact their pay now and long into the future,” Mr Suleyman said.

“In the current cost-of-living crisis it is unacceptable to expect workers to pick up extra responsibilities and work harder, faster and longer to make ends meet.”

The workers were in one of the most dangerous jobs in the airport, yet they were being pushed to the limits while pay and conditions failed to attract more people to share the load, Mr Suleyman said.

Industrial action was the only option left to bring the company to a fair and sustainable agreement, he said.

Rivet services major freight and passenger airlines including Qantas, DHL, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Fiji Airways and Qatar Airways.

Qantas has a contract with ExxonMobil to provide fuel for flights out of Melbourne. The oil and gas company then subcontracts Rivet to refuel aircraft.

Qantas was not expecting any material impact to its flights on Wednesday after its operations team put in workarounds, a spokeswoman said.

The workarounds included flying a spare A380 from Sydney to Melbourne with the maximum amount of fuel it could carry and using it to fill up other aircraft.

The airline was also carrying extra fuel on flights into Melbourne to minimise the refuelling that needed to happen, and making the most of “what limited refuelling capacity will remain on the ground in Melbourne despite the industrial action”.

That included tapping into other providers, the spokeswoman said.

“We have also worked closely with Melbourne Airport and other industry partners to minimise any impact on customers,” she said.

“Customers are advised to proceed to the airport as they normally would.”

A Melbourne Airport spokesperson said the airport would work with airlines to ensure minimal disruption to travellers.

-AAP

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