I’m calling it early: 2022 was the year of the strike. NSW alone has experienced industrial action from both bus drivers, teachers, and nurses. Even the tiny nation of the ACT had its University of Canberra staff members walk off the job over a pay dispute.
What’s more, a whack of other strikes are happening before 2022 wraps up. So, with this info on the noggin, here’s a guide to all of the workplaces that are striking.
Parklea Correctional Centre
On December 17, the staff of Parklea Correctional Centre went on a 48-hour strike. They did this because they want more pay and safer working conditions. It’s been reported that these staff members are the lowest paid and most assaulted correctional workers in the country.
“Understaffing is chronic and causing a lot of these problems. We know this gaol is short-staffed every day,” said Troy Wright, the Public Service Association’s Assistant General Secretary.
“The longer inmates spend locked in their cells, the more agitated they get and the more likely they are to assault staff or start riots or fires.”
The prison operator, MTC, has responded to this strike by saying, “We have been negotiating with the union in good faith since May this year, and we will continue to work with them to reach an agreement.”
Adelaide Bus Drivers
The Transport Workers Union might go up against Adelaide’s biggest bus service, Torrens Transit. This is because the union has received a Protected Action Ballot that’ll allow some of its members to vote if they want to strike against this bus company. If this vote is successful, then over 1000 bus drivers might not work certain days over the Christmas and New Year period.
These members might strike due to the alleged safety conditions and a controversial payment plan that Torrens Transit have put forth.
“Strike action is a last resort and not a decision the workforce takes lightly, but our hardworking bus drivers have been given no choice,” said Transport Workers Union’s Ian Smith. “Torrens Transit has put a completely unacceptable and inadequate offer on the table, which will do nothing to turn our industry around and will only see our drivers go backwards.”
The South Australian and Northern Territory’s Branch Secretary also said, “Driving a bus used to be a good and sought-after job, but that’s not the case anymore. Bus drivers are leaving the industry in droves. Safety, pay, and conditions are in tatters, and instead of seizing this opportunity to deliver an agreement that attracts and retains drivers, Torrens are hanging their drivers out to dry.”
In response to this situation, South Australia’s Transport Minister, Tom Koutstantonis, said, “I am disappointed to see this pay negotiation reach the point where strike action is mooted.”
“Industrial action of this nature should always be a last resort, as it can cause widespread inconvenience: Particularly at this time of year. I expect both parties involved in this discussion to work cooperatively to ensure any such action can be avoided.”
Since then, Torrens Transit has responded by saying, “We are listening to our employees and committed to resolving feedback with them so that we can continue to deliver reliable services to the community.”
“We’ve committed to keeping our customers informed of any service disruptions via all available channels once we become aware of any impact.”
CANCELLED: Airport Firefighters
On December 9, the firefighters that work for Airservices Australia were planning to strike. Moreover, this piece of industrial action was to take place at every one of Australia’s international airports.
This protest was planned by the United Firefighters Union. At that time, these employees wanted to receive more pay and have more staff on site.
“If you have a safety incident, as an air traveller, it’s our responsibility to make sure there’s adequate emergency services waiting after your trip. Airservices has failed to meet regulatory standards, and for the first time in history, there are category non-compliance incidents happening daily,” said the union’s Branch Secretary, Wesley Garrett.
At the time, Airservices Australia had stated that they were “disappointed” with the union’s decision to protest.
However, on December 3, the United Firefighters Union called off their strike. This is because Airservices Australia has promised to bump up the number of airport firefighters in its arsenal and prevent further staff shortages from happening.
“Thankfully, due to our proposed work stoppage on December 9 across Australia’s airports, after a year of obfuscation and deliberate inaction, Airservices has been compelled to come to the table with an in-principle agreement that actually addresses the long staffing problems we face,” said Garrett.
It’s worth noting that Airservices Australia hasn’t promised to increase how much pay its firefighters will receive. This may lead to more disagreements between these parties taking place in the future.
The cabin crew for Qantas has voted to strike for 24 hours sometime in the coming weeks. This is because they’re unhappy with the COVID wage freeze that they had endured for two years. These workers are also displeased with being offered a 3% pay rise for four years and believe that they deserve a bigger raise.
“Cabin crew have worked through the pandemic, have dealt with unhappy passengers due to the issues with baggage, cancelled flights, and all of the troubles Qantas has had: They have felt the brunt of this,” said Teri O’Toole.
The Federal Secretary for the Flight Attendants Association of Australia (FAAA) also said, “This should be a time of recognition for the hard work they’ve done, not punishment for the pandemic.”
A Qantas spokesperson has responded to this situation by saying, “This is a very disappointing step by FAAA, given we’re continuing to negotiate towards a new agreement.”
“They’ve said they’ll minimise the impact to customers of any industrial action, and we’re urging them to stick to their word.”
Airport Security Staff
On December 16, airport security staff at Canberra airport are set to strike. Then, on December 19, Brisbane and the Gold Coast’s airport security staff will follow suit.
These two strikes are taking place because the United Workers Union and a security firm called ISS are currently in a tussle. The United Workers Union believes that its airport security members are entitled to a 10% — 15% pay increase. ISS has not actioned this request.
Regarding this situation, a Brisbane Airport spokesperson said, “Brisbane Airport Corporation would like to acknowledge the important role ISS security officers play in maintaining safety at our airport and thank them for the commitment they display to travellers and visitors to the terminals.”
“We hope that the union and ISS security can reach a fair and reasonable outcome in a time that allows Australians to have the Christmas holiday they deserve, and to reconnect with their family and friends.”
At 3:00pm on December 23, a ton of Apple workers across the country will go on strike until Christmas Eve is over. This is because these workers want an annual wage rise, fixed rosters, to know how many hours they’ll be working, and to always get weekends off two days in a row.
“This Christmas strike is a way for our members to take back their time with family and friends while management continues to refuse to give workers the most basic minimum rostering rights,” said Australia’s Retail and Fast Food Workers Union’s Secretary, Josh Cullinan.
Meanwhile, an Apple spokesperson has responded to this strike by saying that this company’s “proud to reward our valued team members in Australia with strong compensation and exceptional benefits.”
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
On November 17, the workers at Dubbo’s iconic Taronga Western Plains Zoo went on strike. These folks have alleged that some staff members have been underpaid and paid late over the last 18 months.
This strike is being backed by the Australian Workers Union and its NSW Branch Secretary, Tony Callinan.
“For 18 months, maintenance workers at the tourist attraction have endured underpayments, late payments, and consistent problems with their leave entitlements and allowances,” said Callinan.
“Our members tell me they want to be paid on time and for the hours they’ve worked. They want their leave balances rectified, they want to be consulted as part of that process, and they want the new pay system finalised this year.”
Cancelled: NSW Train Workers
Ah, the classic. If you’ve been on NSW’s public transport in the last twelve months, then you probably know the Australian Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union (RTBU) was in a scuffle with the state.
This dispute happened because the NSW Government wanted a new fleet of trains, called the New Intercity Fleet, not to have guards on them. Meanwhile, the RTBU didn’t believe that this will be safe.
The union was striking because of this issue throughout August and November. However, before a massive strike happened on December 2, industrial action was called off. This is because the NSW Government promised to change the New Intercity Fleet’s safety features to be in line with the RTBU’s specifications.
Pampas Pastry Factory Workers
On November 21, 50 food manufacturing workers at Pampas Pastry Factory went on an indefinite strike. These workers were offered a 4% pay rise, and they instead want a rise of somewhere between 6% and 8%. It’s worth noting that a 6% rise would mean that these workers would be earning around an additional $1.60 each hour.
NSW Nursing Staff
On November 23, thousands of nurses across NSW went on strike for 24 hours. The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association has said that this strike took place because its members want better working conditions and more pay.
As the organisation’s General Secretary, Shaye Candish, said; “Since our first statewide strike on February 15, nurses and midwives have gone above and beyond to put patient care ahead of their own basic needs.”
“Shift after shift they have continued, burdened by short staffing and constant requests for overtime.”
It’s worth noting that on November 23, NSW’s hospitals were still be skeleton staffed with nurses. This strike day was also the fourth one of the year.
Western Australian Nursing Staff
On November 25, around 3000 nurses marched on the Parliament of Western Australia. These workers have been offered a 3% pay rise and are pushing for 5%. This strike contained members of the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF).
“In my 23 years with the ANF, nurses and midwives have never gone on strike. The fact that you’re here today shows how desperate the health system has become,” said the ANF’s Director of Legal Services, Belinda Burke.
“This is why nurses and midwives are leaving and reducing their hours.”
Meanwhile, the Industrial Relations Commission stated that this strike was illegal, claiming that it put patients’ lives at risk.
The Western Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, also commented on this situation. He said, “I don’t understand why this industrial action is taking place against the orders of the Industrial Relations Commission.”
“This is unlawful activity. I just urge them to pull back, accept the very good offer put by the government, which is better than most states.”
The ANF’s State Secretary, Janet Reah, has disputed the claim that this strike was dangerous for those who are sick in hospital.
“Our members are smart enough to know who can go to the rally and strike and who needs to stay on the wards and areas to look after patients.”