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Aviation firefighters to stop work

Domestic and international flights will be affected when aviation firefighters at 27 airports stop work for four hours next week over safety concerns.

November 29, 2022
By Farid Farid
29 November 2022

Aviation firefighters will stop work across all Australian airports ahead of the busy Christmas period, saying understaffing is compromising passenger safety.

They will walk off the job between 6am and 10am on December 9 at 27 airports where aviation rescue firefighting services are stationed.

Domestic and international flights will be disrupted as the country heads into the peak holiday period, with all travel restrictions relaxed in recent months.

United Firefighters Union Aviation Branch Secretary Wes Garrett said the stop work action comes about after 100 staff were cut last year from government-owned Airservices Australia, the body responsible for keeping safe 11 per cent of the world’s airspace.

“Air travellers don’t have the protection they need because Airservices cut 100 aviation firefighters from Australia’s airports to cut costs in October 2021,” Mr Garrett said on Tuesday.

Every month more than 600 flights operate from Australia’s airports without the aviation firefighting protection required under international aviation safety regulation, he said.

“Protecting the safety of Australia’s air travellers is the number one priority of every aviation firefighter. That’s why we are undertaking such significant industrial action.”

“We understand that this will be extremely disruptive for Australia’s air travellers and aviation firefighters sincerely apologise for the inconvenience,” he said.

“This industrial action is about getting the aviation firefighters we need to keep air travellers safe and we hope the travelling public will understand.”

Trevor Rodgers, a recently retired aviation fire commander with 38 years of experience under his belt, said that any shortage of aviation firefighters at an incident could have catastrophic consequences for passengers of a burning aircraft.

“Aviation firefighters have just three minutes to reach a burning aircraft and make an intervention to save the passengers,” he said.

After the three-minute window, a fire can quickly spread through the cabin and the chances of people surviving an internal fire are diminished.

“If we do not have the aviation firefighters and the appliances available at the time of the incident, large numbers of people will die. It’s just that simple”.

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