Airtrain’s managers have locked out their Brisbane workforce in retaliation against the workers taking protected industrial action as part of their enterprise agreement negotiations.  

The 30 mostly part time workers at Airtrain refused to collect fares (an exorbitant $20 each way between the city and the airport) on Wednesday, 3 October, and Friday 5 October, as part of their union-backed campaign to secure a better agreement. 

Airtrain is owned by Broadspectrum, a multi-billion dollar, transnational logistics giant, which last year was exposed as having paid no corporate tax since 2013. 

Workers are demanding more control over their working hours and shifts. The current non-union agreement doesn’t allow staff to have any input into rostering. “There’s no master roster where workers can have input into the days they’re available”, Owen Doogan, secretary of the Queensland branch of the Rail, Train and Bus Union, told Red Flag. “They really need it, as it’s a 24-hour industry”. 

He also said that, for most workers at the site, this was the first time that they had been involved in industrial action. The workers didn’t take much convincing. As Doogan described it, “We had a meeting and talked about losing two days’ pay. ‘We don’t care, we’re out Friday as well’, they said”.

In a press release, the union also alleges a series of sexist practices by Airtrain management. These include women workers being reprimanded for not wearing enough make-up or being forced to buy make-up inside the terminal before being allowed to begin their shift. Other have been forced to dye or straighten their hair. According to management, only women with straight hair should be allowed to wear a ponytail. 

Management have also demanded that male staff help them to police the appearance of female staff. “It’s like something out of an episode of Mad Men”, Doogan said.