International travellers using airlines including Qantas, Emirates and Etihad face potential delays as baggage handlers agree to take strike action.

Ground handlers from Dnata, who are contracted to Qantas and more than a dozen other carriers, will walk off the job for 24 hours on Monday, September 12.

The industrial action was agreed to by Dnata workers on Friday with some 350 crew to strike.

Dnata, a ground crew and cargo company, is hoping to stave off next Monday’s strike when it appears before the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday.

The Transport Workers Union is calling for Dnata to lift pay and conditions, including minimum guaranteed work hours.

Qantas sacked its own ground crew staff during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and moved to outsourcing roles to companies such as Dnata.

An airline spokeswoman said the negotiations were a matter for Dnata and the carrier had contingency plans in place to curb disruptions.


The transport union’s national secretary Michael Kaine said ground handlers couldn’t afford to stay in the industry because of a drop in pay and conditions.

“We need to rebalance aviation towards good, secure jobs that keep skilled workers in the industry and ensure the safety of the travelling public,” Mr Kaine said.

He pinned the fall in conditions on outsourcing by Qantas and the lack of JobKeeper payments for Dnata workers under the former Morrison government.

Mr Kaine called on the new Albanese government to establish a regulatory body to set minimum standards across the industry.

A Dnata spokesman said the company had offered workers a “highly competitive” pay offer but also needed to ensure its business was financially sustainable.

“We are disappointed that we have been unable to reach an agreement with the bargaining representatives to date,” he said.


Virgin Australia, Australia’s other major carrier, will not be impacted by the strike.

Qantas is challenging in the High Court a recent Federal Court decision declaring the airline’s outsourcing of ground crew workers to be illegal.

If it loses the appeal, Qantas could owe compensation to the nearly 1700 workers it sacked during the pandemic.

Dnata crews provide ground handling services to Qantas international flights in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, however the company does not service Qantas domestic flights.

The Qantas spokeswoman said Dnata provided services to more than 20 airlines across Australia and a strike would potentially have an impact across the sector.

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