AirServices Australia is in the process of cutting almost a quarter of its workforce, however the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, says that this will not impact safety. This is despite Airservices refusing to provide relevant safety assessments to the Airservices unions and concerns raised about the loss of significant engineering and technical expertise.
“AirServices has been through a phase of quite significant back office staff increases, and the view was taken [that] there was a need to reduce the cost in terms of those service providers from the back office.”
The Shadow minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese, is concerned however that the restructure could be a precursor to privatisation and that such cuts will inevitably impact on the technical capacity of the organisation.
“If you cut the jobs of people, the engineers and support staff, are you going to just end up having to pay people more when they’re contracted out and brought in at higher fees?” Mr Albanese said on RadioNational on Tuesday.
“That’s what we’ve seen across a lot of the public sector; We’ve seen a massive growth under this government of consultants, lawyers, people from outside, being paid exorbitant fees for jobs that used to be done by public servants, who knew what they were doing, who did it as their full-time occupation, with a concentration and specialisation that results from that.”
“Engineering and technical employees are not “back office” staff – they are critical to the functioning of our air traffic control systems. Why would you put the reliability of such systems at risk?” said David Smith, Professionals Australia, Director ACT.
The restructure comes before the implementation of the OneSKY program, which will see civilian and military navigation systems combined by 2021 at a cost of $1.5 billion.
Professionals Australia, along with other Airservices unions, has lodged disputes with the Fair Work Commission in relation to the significant cuts and changes to Airservices jobs. This includes concerns that the organisation is attempting to pressure employees to move to individual contracts and off the relevant enterprise agreements.