Jetstar job cuts to affect about 200 Hunter employees

JOB CUTS: Pat Conroy and Meryl Swanson, the federal members of Shortland and Paterson, with licensed aircraft engineer Bob Toovey at Newcastle Airport on Thursday. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
JOB CUTS: Pat Conroy and Meryl Swanson, the federal members of Shortland and Paterson, with licensed aircraft engineer Bob Toovey at Newcastle Airport on Thursday. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

"Gobsmacked" Jetstar employees of the Hunter have been the hardest hit in a move that will see 370 airline positions across Australia cut, with more than half of those to come from the Newcastle Airport base.

The cuts were announced by parent company Qantas on Thursday as part of its post-COVID recovery plan seeing about 200 Hunter Jetstar jobs slashed.

Of those loses, about 112 will stem from the closure of Newcastle's Jetstar maintenance base, which will move to Melbourne. Further losses include the Newcastle-based cabin crew members and pilot base.

"I've been in the aviation industry 50 years and this is really the first time, I went through a little bit with Ansett, that we've copped it so blatantly," said Bob Toovey, a Newcastle-based licensed aircraft engineer.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce announced on Thursday morning that the airline would slash 6000 jobs and continue to stand down another 15,000 as it struggles to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The job cuts amount to about 20 per cent of the company's workforce and include pilots, cabin crew, engineers, ground crew and corporate staff.

Qantas will ground at least 100 aircraft for up to 12 months and slash $15 billion in costs over the next three years.

Mr Toovey, who also sits on the executive committee of the Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers' Association, said since employees were alerted of the impending cuts through a pre-recorded video on Thursday morning he had been fielding many calls from affected maintenance staff.

"We have something like 40 apprentices, 40 tradesmen about 30 licensed aircraft engineers at the base that have been affected," he said.

"I've had so many phone calls this morning from people displaying a lot of angst about this, asking 'what are we going to do?'."

A Jetstar spokesperson said the airline would guarantee the apprentices' positions if they were prepared to move to Melbourne along with the maintenance base. It is unclear how many other staff will be redeployed.

Mr Toovey, who has been employed with Jetstar for 10 years, said he was "upset" with the news and "gobsmacked" at how it was delivered.

"We deserve better."

Meryl Swanson, the federal member for Paterson, and Pat Conroy, the federal member for Shortland, shared Mr Toovey's anger, calling on the Morrison Government to throw Australia's airlines a lifeline as the nation recovers from COVID-19.

'WE DESERVE BETTER': Lake Macquarie resident and long-time avionics engineer Bob Toovey. Mr Toovey spoke of his disappointment of Jetstar job losses from the Hunter on Thursday.

'WE DESERVE BETTER': Lake Macquarie resident and long-time avionics engineer Bob Toovey. Mr Toovey spoke of his disappointment of Jetstar job losses from the Hunter on Thursday.

"It's incredibly devastating to hear these jobs are going to be lost to our region," Ms Swanson said.

"People want to move to the regions where they can get an affordable house, get a good education for their children, there's great medical facilities and good jobs. But today we've see a hollowing out of these regional jobs.

"This government knew what was coming, they did nothing about it and it is absolutely on Scott Morrison's shoulders."

Mr Conroy said the news was a "kick in the guts".

"This is a tragic day, an avoidable day," he said. "This is a day where if the federal government really cared about jobs, they could have taken concrete action earlier to support the airline industry. If they did that we would have been in a very different place than we are today."

The pair of Labor MPs said they would take the fight to Canberra and lobby parliament to help airlines which, due to domestic and international borders closing, had been hit hard by the pandemic.

The effect of the COVID-19 has been devastating for the economy, particularly for aviation and tourism, said Newcastle Airport boss Dr Peter Cock.

"The decision by the Qantas Group to lay off thousands of staff, including many here in our region, is perhaps the clearest sign yet of just what an effect it has had," he said. "Our hearts go out to all of those people affected."

More to come.

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