Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has welcomed today’s announcement that the Government is reviewing the visa conditions of overseas-based flight attendants on international flights operated by Australian airlines.
The announcement comes after Senator Xenophon first raised serious concerns in July 2011 about the poor pay and conditions for Thai flight attendants working on Jetstar domestic flights. The Fair Work Ombudsman has since launched a case against the airline.
“Overseas-based flight attendants have been able to be used as cheap labour by some Australian airlines for far too long and this review is overdue,” Nick said.
Currently, foreign crew are able to travel into Australia on Special Purpose Visas (SPVs), which don’t have any requirements in relation to pay and conditions, unlike 457 visas.
There is also no legal definition of ‘overseas flights’ or exactly how and when SPVs should be used, meaning airlines can employ flight attendants overseas and then bring them into Australia to fly multiple domestic legs before they leave the country again.
Senator Xenophon hoped the review would force the closure of this legal loophole.
“If a flight attendant is doing consecutive shifts in Australian airspace on an Australian airline, it stands to reason that the Australian workplace regulations should apply too,” Nick said.
“Currently there is no whole-of-government definition or approach to what constitutes an international flight. We need a consistent definition that will stop the exploitation of foreign crew members.”
Senator Xenophon also said this whole issue raised not only questions of cheap labour, but also raises a number of safety concerns.
“As these crew members are not subject to the same duty limits as Australian crew and have been on shifts far longer than should be allowed. When they said they were too fatigued to fly, they were threatened with losing their jobs.”
The flight attendants in question were employed by Tour East Thailand Ltd, which contracts crew to Jetstar and is 37 per cent owned by Qantas.
Senator Xenophon said any review should also look into the reason flight attendants were recently added to the 457 visa category as being part of a supposed labour shortage in the sector.