While Jetstar is known to hire cabin crew from Asian countries for international routes, and hence reduce its wages bill by not employing Australians, reports suggest these foreign crews have also been working domestically in Australia.
According to the ABC, some of these crews have been earning a base rate of as little as $100 per week and receiving travel allowances of just $60 per 36-hour period.
A former employee was quoted as saying they were also required to work up to 20 hours consecutively.
“For the Thai-based crew, we can be rostered up to 17 hours and can be working up to 20 hours,” the former worker reportedly said.
“There are safety concerns because of the fatigue; the crew should be fit at all times. It’s the crew that would help the passengers in an emergency.”
Jetstar labels allegations ‘misleading’
In a statement issued after the allegations had been raised, Jetstar suggest the claims lacked “much context” and were “misleading”.
“[The ABC] has made a lot of claims without much context. The reporting on salary figures and length of shifts is misleading, and its simply wrong to say we operate overseas crew on domestic rosters,” the airline said.
“They have overlooked standard industry practice around payment of allowances and rostering of crew to deliver a headline.”
In a Q and A style response to the allegations, Jetstar said the $100 per week figure is “based on zero flying hours” and is “not reflective of the average weekly earnings of our Thai-based crew, which is $650.”
“Cabin crew salaries are made up of a base wage plus flying hours and other allowances. This is common to airlines around the world.”
That would equate to an annual salary of $33,800 and sits below the current Australian minimum wage of $694.90 pre-tax.
Jetstar also said its crew rosters have a maximum of 14 hours on duty, with that being extended to a maximum of 17 hours “in the event of a flight delay”.
“We take all fatigue reports extremely seriously and have strict fatigue management processes in place, which include rostering limitations, to ensure adequate rest periods,” it said.
“All our crew, including Australian-based crew, have an operating limit 14 hours duty (including two hours to sign on/sign off).”
But the core allegation – that foreign employees have been working in Australia – was vehemently denied by the airline.
“The only time overseas-based crew operate between two Australian domestic cities is on a ‘tag flight’, which is an industry term used to describe an international flight that connects in more than one domestic city, such as Adelaide-Darwin-Denpasar. The pilots, cabin crew and the aircraft operate all of these sectors,” Jetstar said.
“Overseas-based crew operating tag flights complies with Australia’s employment law and Australian visa conditions.”
It added that “many airlines operate tag flights, they are common industry practice worldwide” but that they are relatively rare in practice, noting that “approximately 0.5 per cent of Jetstar’s flights are tag flights”.
A spokesperson for the Fair Work Ombudsman did not respond to specific questions about the matter or foreign workers in general, stating that “the Fair Work Ombudsman generally provides detailed information on individual matters only when the matter is or has been subject to formal enforcement action, such as litigation or an Enforceable Undertaking”.