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Transport Workers Union forms new pilot division as aviation workers raise safety concern

Pilots are concerned their colleagues are being pressured to fly planes despite being fatigued or unfit, a union survey has revealed.

The Transport Workers Union released the poll of 150 pilots on Tuesday to mark the creation of a new division to organise flyers.

The new TWU Pilots division was formed through a merger between the TWU and Virgin Independent Pilots’ Association and was approved by the Fair Work Commission, a union statement said.

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Camera IconThe union survey said many pilots were concerned about fatigue. NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

“Bringing pilots into the TWU means all aviation workers benefit from the might of collectivism, from the ground and baggage room right through to the flight deck, giving aviation workers the best opportunity to lift standards across the industry,” TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said.

He said the survey showed pilots were “trapped in a race to the bottom” and that the workers’ rosters were too hectic to fly safely.

Ninety-two per cent of respondents, most of whom had more than two decades’ experience, said safety implications of rostering practices was a key concern.

Another 88 per cent said they were worried about fatigue management, and 58 per cent said roster uncertainty was pressuring tired or unfit pilots to fly.

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Camera IconThe pilots worry that fatigue will impact safety. NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw Credit: News Corp Australia

“Basically everybody seems stressed and overworked,” one anonymous pilot told the survey.

“Corners are being cut. For example, pushback wing walkers are not being used due to lack of staff in Melbourne.”

Wing walkers are staff making sure the aircraft wings don’t hit any objects while a plane is being moved backwards from a parked position, known as pushback.

TWU Pilots general manager Warwick Renton said the division would aim to lift standards across the sector.

“Safety is impacted by maxed out and unstable rostering which makes it near impossible to manage fatigue, make plans with family or even book medical appointments,” he said.

“This cannot continue.”

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