Virgin cabin crew votes to take Christmas strike action threatening travel chaos

Virgin cabin crew have “overwhelmingly” voted to strike several times in the lead up to the busy Christmas travel period, in a move which could threaten travel during the festive season.

More than 98 per cent of Virgin crew who are members of the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) have voted for a series of 24-hour stoppages, threatening to up-end holiday travel.

The move was described as “unprecedented” by FAAA secretary Teri O’Toole, who said crew have “had enough of looking after the passengers like they are family and being treated like slaves”.

“Virgin’s latest pay offer will not lift Cabin crew wages above poverty rates,” she said.

“In the last 5 years, cabin crew have received 1.98 per cent pay increase in total. With inflation and a sharp rise in the cost of living they struggle to pay for rent, food, fuel and household bills and school fees.”

In response to the declared strike action, Virgin has offered staff an extra $150 for each day they work over the summer holiday period, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Ms O’Toole compared the “bonus” to a bribe.

“Dressed up as a Santa bonus, the cynical approach by Virgin is being seen for what it is by Virgin cabin crew,” she said.

A Virgin spokesperson said the airline had not received notification of any industrial action but would “continue to work intensively with unions to resolve this dispute”.

They said that the union had knocked back an offer of a 15 per cent base salary increase worth $50 million over three years, instead demanding a 29 per cent wage increase.

“It is disappointing the unions have yet to commit to any meaningful concessions to what are a patently excessive set of claim,” the spokesperson said.

The union argues that members “sacrificed” to rebuild the airline after it was put in administration in 2020, with Virgin allegedly promising that they would be paid better and have a reasonable work-life balance when the company regained stability.

On top of pay concerns, Ms O’Toole said that Virgin must work to create better rostering practices to reduce fatigue at work.

“Virgin needs to show they value and fairly remunerate their staff and are willing to address the systemic issues that cause, burnout and exhaustion at work,” she said.

“There has been a rise in near miss events due to fatigue, where an accident could cause serious injury.”

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