Aviation firefighter strike to throw all Australian airports into chaos

Travellers across the nation are in for a day of mayhem next week, with a major strike set to take place at all major airports.

Firefighters will walk off the job at 27 international and domestic airports in all Australian capital cities and major regional hubs on December 9.

The United Firefighters Union says it could potentially ground planes at every airport in the country, causing significant delays throughout the day and major headaches for travellers.

NCA NewsWire understands the decision as to whether flights are able to take off, despite the fact there won’t be any firefighters at airports, is at the discretion of the airlines.

Whether flights will be rescheduled around the strike is yet to be confirmed by the major airlines, with work stopping from 6am to 10am on December 9.

Virgin Australia has flagged it intends to make sure planes still fly despite the lack of firefighters on the ground, but says necessary disruptions may occur.

“We will continue to liaise with Airservices and other relevant agencies to ensure Virgin Australia flights can operate safely, and with minimal disruption, during the planned strike action,” the airline said in a statement.

Qantas and Jetstar have not responded to questions about whether they will fly planes during that time.

Sydney Airport is putting on extra staff in the wake of the strike action, however is urging travellers to listen to the airlines about whether they will be impacted.

The UFU says the strike is part of rolling industrial action over staffing levels, with more than 100 aviation firefighter jobs lost since October 2021.

“We’re 100 firefighters short; we’ve been trying to resolve an issue around firefighter staffing with Aviation Rescue Firefighting for some time now and our members don’t see any option but to strike,” UFU aviation branch secretary Wes Garrett said on Sunrise.

This is disputed by Airservices Australia, which says staffing claims are “misleading” and that the union is undertaking the action over demands for a pay rise.

“There is no shortage of aviation rescue fire fighters in Airservices’ Aviation Rescue Fire Fighting Service (ARFFS) at Sydney or at any other location,” a spokesperson said.

“Airservices is disappointed to learn of the UFUAV’s decision to call strike action.”

Airservices says there are more than 750 firefighters on staff, above the 740 firefighters needed by the network, and nearly 100 trainees entering the system over the next two years.

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