Virgin Australia pilots OK new contract

Deal avoids pilot layoffs until end of 2022 but speculation remains airline will furlough other employees soon

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Amid much speculation that the airline will soon announce employee furloughs or layoffs, Virgin Australia said on 10 August that it has reached an agreement with its 800 pilots that will protect them from being fired until at least the end of next year. The deal was agreed to by 73 percent of the pilots, who accepted a smaller wage increase in exchange for job protection. Pilots had previously voted down a proposed deal from Virgin in December.

“The approval of the agreement delivers certainty for Virgin B737 Pilots during a challenging period. While the deal isn’t perfect it represents a solid platform to build on in the future,” said AFAP Senior Legal/Industrial Officer Deanna Cain. “Pilots have taken a pragmatic view in the circumstances and voted to secure certainty over their working conditions. The deal locks in greater time at home and increases to their hourly rates over the next two-and-a-half years. The agreement also provides for a guarantee of no redundancies until the end of 2022 and a strong baseline of income throughout the current period of instability,” said Cain. “The AFAP and Virgin Australia have both made compromises and reached a balanced outcome that assists both the pilots and company to manage the current instability in the industry until domestic borders remain permanently open.”

Under the deal a pilot’s minimum guaranteed hours fall from 69 hours a month to 57.5 hours, with a guaranteed 12 days off in 28.

The Virgin Independent Pilots Association (VIPA) and Transport Workers Union, which are set to merge, also welcomed finalisation of the deal. VIPA president John Lyons said it came at an important time. “The current aviation climate provided difficult circumstances for workers to negotiate, yet by standing strong and united, Virgin pilots have succeeded in achieving a good package,” Lyons said. “Given the fatigue of more than a year of uncertainty and a yo-yo effect of stand-ups and stand-downs, pilots have held out to ensure the best possible outcome for themselves and their families, while ensuring they can do their jobs at the high standards expected of the airline.”

The pilots’ agreement was the last to be voted up by Virgin workers since the airline was bought by US private equity firm Bain Capital after going into administration last year.

A Virgin Australia spokesman said the agreement would provide “security and certainty” for pilots and position the airline to respond to the short-term pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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