Australian firefighters gear up to strike claiming airports are at ‘extreme risk’ due to staff shortages

Simone Grogan
The Nightly
2 Min Read
Mine workers at Perth airport ready to fly to site.
Mine workers at Perth airport ready to fly to site. Credit: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Firefighters across Australia’s biggest airports will down tools later this month claiming years of severe understaffing poses a risk to traveller safety.

The United Firefighters Union of Australia plans to engage in a protected four-hour stoppage on April 15 in a move Federal Government employer Airservices Australia has pushed back on, claiming it will disrupt travel and is part of firefighters’ campaign to secure a 20 per cent pay rise.

The UFUA announced the action on Tuesday citing what it claimed were “leaked” internal documents from a ‘Task Resource Analysis’ into safety risks at Australian airports and whether they had the resources, including firefighting staff and equipment, to deal with them.

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UFUA’s aviation branch secretary Wes Garrett said the documents confirmed the union’s claims over several years about a shortage of firefighters and the risks it posed to airports and travellers.

“These leaked documents confirm that Australia’s air travellers face a dire risk every time they set foot on an aircraft in Australia,” he said.

“At 13 major airports across Australia, including Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, the leaked documents confirm that air travellers face ‘extreme’ risk.

“Air travellers faced a high risk at the 14 remaining airports across Australia, including Sydney, Canberra, and Hobart.”

Firefighters want staffing clauses built into a new enterprise bargaining agreement, which is currently being negotiated with Airservices Australia, as well as a 20 per cent pay rise.

An Airservices Australia spokeswoman said the union had been offered an 11.2 per cent pay rise and that there were “sufficient aviation rescue fire fighting personnel to meet our regulatory obligations”.

“Airservices conducts operational risk assessments to capture and define the management of risks and manage them to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable, and the TRA documentation states that Airservices’ existing processes are both effective and appropriate for current levels of operational risk,” she said.

“There is no current regulatory requirement to adopt TRA-based guidelines and international ARFF services that have completed TRAs including Heathrow, Auckland, Glasgow, Gatwick and Manchester have minimum staffing levels similar or less than those applied by Airservices under current regulations.”

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