Sydney airport staff sleeping in "Third World conditions"

Stuck in squalor because the trip home is too expensive between split shifts.

By Kate Wagner

Aviation staff at Sydney airport are forced to sleep in “Third World conditions” while waiting for their next shift.

Footage obtained by 7.30 shows squalid, makeshift beds in the employee-only section behind the carousel.

The split shifts most employees work mean it isn’t worth their while, neither financially nor time wise, to go home in the gap - which means some are there for more than 14 hours a day for a fraction of the pay.

Those who work for Aerocare, a company which provides ground support to major airlines like Qantas and Jetstar, described sleep-deprived staff watch a fully loaded Tiger Air passenger plane in Brisbane prepare for takeoff with a cargo door mistakenly left open.

Despite fears he’d lose his job, driver George Orsaris discussed the poor working conditions with 7.30.

"We get pushed to our limits. Our pay doesn't match it. We don't get rest breaks and we get given a four-hour shift in the morning and then we have a four-or-five-hour break and get a four-hour shift in the afternoon," he told the program.

“It’s filthy, it’s cold, it’s dark - it’s just absolutely horrible,”

“It’s definitely not conditions that people in this day and age, especially in Australia, [expect] are going on here. It’s unthinkable,” he said.

With staff earning as little as $1500 a month, “They can’t afford the fuel or the tolls,” Transport Workers Union spokesman Tony Sheldon said.

A former worker, Jason, said the safety standards were suffering because Aerocare employees were being paid so poorly they "didn't care about their jobs".

Aerocare has rejected the accusations of poor treatment, saying they’ve “invested millions of dollars to improve the quality of its rostering so as to maximise the duration of shifts, with the goal of securing more contracts which would enable Aerocare to offer employees longer shifts and further viable fulltime positions.”

Aerocare chief executive Glenn Rutherford says he was unaware of employees sleeping in the baggage holding area, saying they have access to their own lounge, but the company will investigate the claims.

The TWU is currently in talks with Aerocare about a new pay deal and extending minimum shift hours from three to four hours.

  • Author: Kate Wagner